Silver Lake and Seaquest State Park
HIKE DESCRIPTION: Formed by an eruption of Mount St. Helens 2,500 years ago, Silver Lake in Cowlitz County is a good place to hike for those who enjoy seeing birds and other creatures.
The lake is a rest stop for migrating birds and a sign on the short, interpretive loop trail says more than 500,000 birds spend time at the lake each year. Visitors might see hummingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, coots and herons.
Even in winter when bird activity is low, the lake is an enjoyable place to visit. The loop hike starts and finishes from the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center and it is a flat, tranquil walk. Camera-toting hikers stop to take pictures of the wetland and squirrels playing in the trees near the visitor center. The trail passes interpretive signage telling the story of the lake, and benches offer a place to relax and take in the atmosphere.
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While the walk is short (0.8 miles) it can be easily extended by using the pedestrian tunnel under state Route 504 to access the trails at Seaquest State Park. By adding on the loop through the forest at the north end of the park, the hike will cover 3 miles. There are more short trails in the park (7 miles in total, according to the park website) that can be used to extend your walk even farther.
DIRECTIONS: From Interstate 5, take Exit 49 and follow state Route 504 northeast for about 5 miles. The Mount St. Helens Silver Lake Visitors Center is on the right and Seaquest State Park is on the left.
DIFFICULTY RATING: 2 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
MILES ROUND TRIP: 3.
ELEVATION GAIN: 500 feet.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round.
PASS: Discover Pass ($10 per vehicle per day or $30 per year).
ALSO: The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays through February. It is closed on President’s Day. The center opened in 1987 and draws an estimated 300,000 visitors per year. A step-in model of the mountain, a working seismograph, a short film, a display and a gift shop highlight the center. Admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for ages 7-17 and free for kids 6 and younger. A family pass is $15. Maps and other information about hiking in the area are available at the center’s information counter. Camping is available all year in Seaquest State Park. Rates are $12-$30 through March. Numerous geocaches are hidden in the area. Dog owners must clean up after their pets and keep them on leashes.