If you lived in the Pacific Northwest in May 1980, you probably remember exactly where you were when Mt. St. Helens blew its top. That eruption was a monumental event that changed the mountain forever.
Kalama Horse Camp, located on the southwest flank of Mt. St. Helens, is outside the blast zone of the 1980 eruption. But the camp and its nearby trails are close enough to the mountain for you to observe how the most recent eruption changed the area. Of course, you’ll also see plenty of evidence of previous volcanic activity.
When you’re riding at Kalama Horse Camp, here are some of the eruption-related sights you can see:
From the Cinnamon Trail, you’ll have panoramic views of Mt. St. Helens. The mud flows that streamed down the mountain’s flanks are clearly visible.
From the Toutle Trail, you’ll get another view of the volcano’s snow-covered slopes across McBride Lake, which has largely been silted in by eruption-related runoff. Today the lake is so overgrown with alders that you can’t see any water at all.
Near Blue Lake, you’ll travel across the rocky mud flow from the 1980 eruption that hemmed in the lake on two sides.
At Red Rock Pass, the Toutle Trail crosses a long-ago lava flow with a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens. The name of the pass is puzzling because the lava is black, and there isn’t a red rock in sight.
The Kalama Ski Trail travels over an ancient lahar, a slurry-style mud flow.
On the Kalama Ski Trail, you’ll cross a massive mudflow that swept down off the mountain during the 1980 eruption, bringing huge boulders with it.
The trails out of Kalama Horse Camp offer something for every rider. The first several miles of the Toutle Trail are easy enough for green horses and riders. After that, the Blue Horse Trail, Kalama Ski Trail, and the far end of the Toutle Trail are of moderate difficulty. And the Cinnamon Trail, Fossil Trail, and the middle of the Toutle Trail are challenging because of their significant elevation gains/losses and steep drop-offs. By choosing the trails that match your experience and inclinations, you can have a fabulous – and geologically fascinating – time at Kalama Horse Camp.
THE HORSE CAMP
Kalama Horse Camp is arguably the nicest horse camp in southwest Washington. It features 27 sites in a pretty forested setting, all with sturdy 2- or 4-horse corrals. More than two-thirds of the campsites have pull-through parking for two trailers. Kalama’s two campground loops each have a toilet, stock water trough, accessible mounting ramp, and manure bin. For local riders, the day-use area has parking for 8-10 trailers. There’s also an enclosed group shelter with a wood stove. The camp is open from May through October. A fee is charged for overnight camping, but day-use parking is free.
The trails out of Kalama Horse Camp are covered in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails by Kim McCarrel, available at www.NWHorseTrails.com.