This route is easy for the first mile to June Lake then becomes steep and requires some scrambling over large boulders in a lava rock flow.
This is an easy forested route to June Lake for one mile. After June Lake the going is steep to the Loowit Trail then difficult due to the rock flow you'll be navigating over. The route after June Lake is not always easy to find.
The Trailhead is easy to find off Forest Road 83. There is a small parking lot and a trail sign for the June Lake Trail #216B
. There was a sign posted warning of a recent cougar sighting in the area a few days earlier. The trail is a wide a gentle uphill forested trail that follows a creek to your left. This creek is the outflow of June Lake. The trail is easy to follow. At a few points, you'll get a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens. On my outing, the top was shrouded in clouds but the view was still impressive. In about a mile you'll come to a small bridge that crosses the outflow creek from June Lake. Once across you'll be in a flat open area. Small campsites are dotted around this open area. Head to the right of the trail and you'll see small June Lake. It is surrounded on three sides by steep forest, which makes actually accessing the water a bit difficult. A waterfall flows into the lake directly across and a small cascade is to the left of that.
I originally tackled this route in an effort to scout an easy backpack trip for my granddaughter. This is very doable for small kids. The potential campsites are in the open area on the opposite side of the trail from the lake. Behind the campsites, you'll find a big rock flow and dry wash.
I continued on the trail to meet up with the Loowit #216: Ptarmigan - June Lake
Trail. This is a steep, steady climb from the lake and in a short time you end at the Loowit Trail, which is still in the Washington forest. I followed the Loowit Trail clockwise (headed west) and in a short time emerged from the forest into rock field. The trail at this point is all over rock flow. These rocks are large and the trail in most places is only distinguishable by cairns or poles. For the most part, I put my trekking poles away and in a few places I used my hands. One other thing to note, I found the trail maps were not very accurate from just beyond June lake and in a few places were very off. Use your best judgement, and cross this scramble carefully, and you'll be able to find the trail once you've reached the other side.
I took a break at one point on the Loowit to view St Helens and in the distance, you could also see a portion of Adams.
I did a little cross country on the rocks to the Swift Creek Trail. Once on that trail, you are back in the forest. This trail is not as well marked as the June Lake Trail #216B
In a very short time I came to the signed intersection of the Pika Trail #244D
. From this point on this trail that goes back to June Lake is very difficult to follow and most of it is over rock flow. Follow the blue ski route signs, as technically this is a ski trail, though it's usable in the summer. You'll have to navigate cross country at some point since signage is sparse. When you cross the last dry wash you'll be at the furthest campsites at June Lake.
Follow the June Lake Trail #216B
back to the trailhead.
Some deer can be seen along the way, and there are salamanders that inhabit the lake. Use caution, as there was a cougar warning sign was posted with a sighting 6/29/2016.