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Trail of Two Forests

South Cascades


South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens
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0.5 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 50 ft.
Highest Point: 1885 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

This trail loops through two forests that stand side by side, but are separated in age by 2000 years. One forest is old-growth Douglas-fir and western red-cedar and the other is a young forest that was originally engulfed by lava flows from an eruption of Mount St. Helens over two millennia ago.

The other forest, known formerly as the Lava Cast Forest, encompasses three-dimensional imprints of trees in the old lava beds called lava casts. The boardwalk trail loops through the two forests, and is kid- and wheelchair-friendly.

During eruptive activity some 1900 years ago, fluid lava flowed through a stand of trees, burning them but leaving impressions where they stood or lay. This lava was quite different from the sticky type of lava that forms the dome in the crater of St. Helens today.

When you visit the Trail of Two Forests, please stay on the trail -- the mosses and surrounding features of the forest are fragile.

WTA Pro Tip: One attraction along the boardwalk is a ladder descending eight feet into a lava-cast tree mold. Hikers can crawl through the tree mold, an activity especially popular with youngsters. Flashlights and old, warm clothes are good preparation for the fun.


Trail of Two Forests

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.0993, -122.2136 Open map in new window


South Cascades -- Mount St. Helens

Trail of Two Forests (#233)

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: South Cascades (Nelson -- Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails No. 364 Mount St. Helens

Getting There

Drive east from I-5 on Highway 503 as it changes to Forest Road 90. Pass the town of Cougar, and just 1 mile beyond the Swift Dam (about 35 miles from your turn off I-5), make a left onto FR 83. Proceed two miles and turn left onto FR 8303. The trailhead is on the left, a half mile away.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Trail of Two Forests

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