Loowit Falls is fed by the Crescent Glacier, one of the only glaciers on earth that is growing rather than receding. And the trek from Windy Ridge into the blast zone is one of the most dramatic day hikes St. Helens can offer.
Beginning from the Windy Ridge Viewpoint, hike down the service road 1.8 miles to where it dead ends in a parking area. While most vehicles can’t get down this far, some monument staff and scientists still drive it, so don’t be surprised to encounter a car on the road or in the lot.
From the lot, turn right and look for the Windy Trail (it’ll be the sign on the left). This trail winds briefly through a pumice field before beginning to climb up towards the Loowit Trail. The gentle incline is lined by gorgeous wildflowers (specifically lupines and some paintbrush) and alders. The prevalence of these plants indicates healthy recovery; already in spring the lupine form a blue carpet on sections of this hike, and paintbrush splash vivid color on this stark landscape.
After a mile on the Windy Trail, arrive at a junction with the Loowit Trail. This round-the-mountain trail is a challenging one, and you’ll get a taste of why that’s the case now. Turn right onto the Loowit and begin hiking west, climbing in and out of lahars as you go. These ravines where water flows off the mountain provide ever-changing topography to navigate, but luckily, on this section, none are particularly steep or difficult.
After a mile, arrive at the junction for Loowit Falls. Though it is signed a quarter-mile to the falls, it’s really more like a half-mile. A touch more difficult to follow than the Loowit Trail proper, this route heads uphill to the falls overlook, making for a fantastic lunch spot.
The landscape here is ever-changing; something to take into consideration when selecting where best to view the falls. Because it’s fed by a glacier that’s quite near the top of the falls, sudden surges of water, particularly on hot days, can cause bursts of flow over the falls and into the canyon. Stay out of the canyon and away from the creek, keeping to the east side.
When you’re finished, head back the way you came. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can hike back to the junction with the Loowit, then continue west for a mile on the Loowit until you reach the junction with the Willow Springs trail. Hike this trail another mile, then turn onto the Truman Trail, which crosses the pumice plain for 1.7 miles, ending at the service road.