Mount St. Helens’ Lava Canyon opens for 2017 (and it is incredible!)

It’s been an incredible winter in the Cascades but that’s also left a lot of regular adventures inaccessible with snow lingering around the roads even as we come up on the first days of summer. That’s certainly been the case for Lava Canyon but no more as driving up to Mount St. Helens’ for a climb on Friday afternoon, I noticed that the forest road 83 gates at Marble Mountain sno-park had finally opened for the year! 

Lava Canyon Opens for 2017

So, after wrapping up a great day on the mountain, I decided to pay the canyon a visit before heading home. Save for a few potholes and bumps, the road is in great shape with no snow or other obstructions to worry about and the same is true for the trailhead and upper trail.

Lava canyon suspension bridge

More importantly, all of the snow melt has the river really roaring at this point and the late Spring sights all along the drive as well as in the canyon are something else. Perhaps since things have just opened and the word is not completely out yet, crowds were fairly light for my late afternoon visit and as I left the canyon around 8, mine was the only car in the parking lot.

Lava Canyon: A Sight Beyond Words

If you haven’t been before, Lava Canyon is a sight that really is beyond words combining a nearly two-thousand year old, volcanic landscape with a thrilling suspension bridge and of course, jaw dropping river and waterfalls falls (check out my Lava Canyon Trail Guide.) The wonder was brought to life by the devastating 1980 eruption which redirected the existing river towards the canyon, forcing out centuries of debris and turning it into the sight it is today.

Water snakes through the upper canyon

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While the upper canyon is no massive undertaking (a word of warning, several people have died over the years from slipping in or near the river so do follow the signs and stay on the trails), it is an area well worth the drive. Even just wandering through the forest down to the viewing area is an incredible experience and was even better yesterday with all of the landscape green and lush in Spring. 

Waterfall Views and One Incredible Suspension Bridge

It’s only about a half mile to the canyon and my favorite views are just a few paces further around the upper bridge where the water forcefully snakes its way around the incredible canyon walls before plunging down a few decent falls. Reaching the lower suspension bridge on the loop trail is not a long trek but the rough path requires a far more aggressive hike though with plenty of impressive features. Of course, standing high over the canyon waters as the bridge sways around is something else (and probably not something for the height-adverse.)

Looking down the lava canyon suspension bridge

My visit was not a long one but it’s great to see the canyon again, incredible to see all the water roaring around the mountain and I’m sure I will be back again soon.

Note: The lower canyon trail remains closed as of the Forest Service’s update on 6/13/2017.

For more on hiking the canyon, see my Lava Canyon Trail Guide.