Lava Canyon

  • Easy (to suspension bridge)
  • 1.3-mile loop
  • 300 feet elevation gain
  • Open mid-April to mid-November


  • Moderate (to The Ship)
  • 3.3 miles round trip
  • 1100 feet elevation gain

This spectacular trail descends a mudflow-scoured chasm past waterfalls and ancient lava cliffs. An easy loop circles the upper gorge, crossing the canyon twice on scenic footbridges. More adventurous hikers can continue downstream on a narrower tread that descends a dizzying 40-foot ladder en route to a lava outcrop called The Ship. Pets are not allowed.

The rock formations in Lava Canyon are remnants of a Mt. St. Helens lava flow that coursed down the Muddy River’s valley 3500 years ago. The basalt lava fractured into a honeycomb of pillar-like columns as it cooled. When the river then cut down through the flow it carved waterfall chutes and left free-standing lava towers such as The Ship. Later stream debris buried the formations until the 1980 eruption, when the melting Shoestring Glacier loosed a gigantic lahar (mudflow) that washed Lava Canyon clean.

Drive Interstate …

Other Options

If you can arrange a short car shuttle, you can …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington.