Loowit #216- Castle Ridge to Sheep Canyon Trail

Area Status: Open

This maintained 2 mile section of Loowit Trail #216 runs from Castle Ridge Trail #216G junction to the Sheep Canyon Trail #240 junction.

Few trails capture more completely the range of effects of the 1980 eruption than this section of the Loowit Trail. Along this route you will discover views of mudflow-scoured river valleys, blast- singed trees, miles of blown-down forest, and views of newly created lakes. Observe this raw landscape and see how the familiar features of the Cascade Range were formed.

Walk out onto a huge boulder and enjoy an impressive view of the headwall of the South Fork of the Toutle River. Scan the horizon for outstanding views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Margaret, Mount Rainier and Johnston Ridge. Also enjoy a view of Coldwater Lake which was formed as a result of the 1980 eruption.

The trail descends to the South Fork of the Toutle River. Here you can see that this once well- forested valley was transformed into the skeletal remains of ash- covered logs and shattered stumps by the fury of a fiery blast of fragmented rock and the abrasive action of a raging mudflow. From the heart of the blast area, the trail descends into the Pumice Bowl and crosses via ford the South Fork Toutle River and climbs through a subalpine environment to panoramic views as it traverses the ridge. 

At a Glance

Current Conditions: 6/30/22: A particularly snowy winter and spring has resulted in challenging conditions on the Loowit Trail. Areas with tree cover along the West side will likely have a considerable amount of downed trees and will retain snow into early July. Trailwork will be delayed, or may not occur at all. In addition, fall atmospheric river events may have caused significant washouts and the trail will be hard to discern in areas, particularly those with volcanic ash and pumice on the North end of the loop. Travel with caution.
Fees: No fee or permit required for trail use, however a $5/vehicle/day or a valid Recreation Pass required at some access points including Ape Canyon Trailhead, Climber's Bivouac Trailhead and Windy Ridge Interpretive site. See Mount St. Helens Map for fee and payment sites.
Usage: Light-Medium
  • Off-trail travel, dogs, bicycles, camping, fires and livestock are prohibited to protect sensitive natural features and scientific studies between Windy Pass and the South Fork Toutle River. This 10 mile section must be completed in one day.  See Mount St. Helens Map for information.
  • Research permits are required for off-trail travel. 
Closest Towns: Cougar, WA
Water: No
Restroom: No
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:

General Information


The closest parking area to access this section of the Loowit Trail is the Blue Lake Trail Head  (Forest Road 8323).

This section can be accessed by Toutle Trail #238 and Castle Ridge Trail #216G


Mountain Biking


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
2 miles

  Elevation : 
3250' - 4700'