“A 3/4 mile trail through a wetland created by Mount St. Helens eruptions, with views of the mountain in the distance.”
— David Hitchcock
The visitor center is open at varying times throughout the year, but the trail is open even if the visitor center is closed.
Features: Lake — Views — Wildlife
The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake is located 5 miles east of I-5 on 504. The visitor center is open year round, but the hours depending on the time of year. However, the trail appears to be open whether the visitor center is open or not. There are several parking lots for the visitor center that you can use.
The trail departs from the front of the visitor center and drops into the forest. After cutting back to the right, the trail forks and goes to the left or right. You can go either way as it is a loop, but for the purposes of this description, the trail goes off to the left. The trail is wide and gravel as it makes its way along the parking areas. Moving through the woods, the trail passes by a couple of small feeder streams that lead into Silver Lake. At roughly .3 miles, the trail emerges on a wooden boardwalk that goes out onto a part of the lake. From here, you can begin to see Mount Saint Helens off in the distance if it is clear. Lily pads and other water plant life are found on either side of the trail. Ducks and other water foul can be seen in the waters of the lake. There is a plaque commemorating the eruption and those who passed away in 1980.
The boardwalk ends on a jetty of land (which is an old timber railroad grade used to transport trees to the mills) that works its way back to the right and toward the visitor center. More of the lake is visible here, and lots of waterfowl can be seen here. There is a bench where you can sit and enjoy the views before making your way back to the visitor center. The trail follows the gravel path until it comes to another boardwalk that curves back to the right. After crossing the boardwalk, the trail forks again.
You can get to the back side of the visitor center if you take it to the left or if you go to the right, the trail will lead up to a circular viewpoint where you can overlook the lake and marshes. Continue straight until you get back to the fork and go to the left in order to get back to the trailhead where you started. There is a sign here that explains what is going on in the wetlands and how the area came about.
Flora & Fauna
There are many species of ducks and wetland creatures in Silver Lake, which the trail runs through. While some of the trail runs along the bank, it moves onto a boardwalk where you can see various types of lake plant life.