The Harmony Trail was an unexpected short hike which made an excellent addition to our unexpected day at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. At just under two miles round trip it's a relatively easy hike down to to the edge of Spirit Lake. The history of what happened to Spirit Lake during the 1980 eruption is simply fascinating and of all the points of interest in the park - this one captures my mind the most.
The short version; Spirit Lake caught the full force of the blast wave, filled with all sorts of debris, and it's surface raised over 200 feet. Today, it's still filled with the floating debris of trees destroyed over 30 years ago during the eruption - making it a scene quite reminiscent of a coastal beach.
We actually pulled off at the Harmony trailhead simply to take in the view down to Spirit Lake - we hadn't planned on hiking since most all the trails in the area are closed to the four legged member of our family. However, at the trailhead there was a sign showing that dogs on leash were allowed!* So we quickly grabbed our backpacks and away we went.
The beginning of the trail is a well maintained sandy pathway which slowly descends down into the valley from the road. It's mostly sheltered with medium trees - this particular side of the hill was spared from the worst of the blast. To your right will be views of the recovering valley and about halfway down you'll pass some large rocks which make for a good spot to cool down on a hot day.
Once you make it down to the flat valley area the path widens and the views expand further as you catch peeks of Mount St. Helens. Depending on the time of year, we visited in August, you'll likely spot some vibrant colored wildflowers.
After making your way through the valley, you can either stop at an overlook of Spirit Lake or proceed down the slightly less developed and smaller trail towards the edge of the lake. You'll pass a small waterfall and some exposed bedrock (very cool) before meeting up with piles of driftwood. It's quite a similar scene to Kalaloch Beach, with the exception that these trees were all blown over by the blast wave in 1980.
The lake itself is off limits, but the large logs make a great spot to settle down for a picnic. Just keep in mind, like the rest of the Windy Ridge area of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the entire area is very exposed. Pack enough water for your whole party and sun protection to get you through the day.
*When I looked up the hike on the web to reference for this post, the Forest Service page shows that pets are not allowed on this trail. Like I mentioned in the post, there was a sign at the trailhead showing dogs on leash were allowed. We also passed a ranger on our hike who admired our pup and seemed to have no problem with her on the trail as well as with the other pups we saw on our journey. This entire area is still recovering from a catastrophic incident, so please respect it with whomever you bring on your visit.