Since my two day trip around Mt. Hood via the Timberline Trail last year, I’ve been wanting to visit the Loowit Trail. I read it was between 30-32 miles depending on the access trail chosen and that the terrain was very difficult, only recommended for experienced hikers. The Loowit Trail is known for limited waters sources, steep rocky and sandy terrain, lava beds, washouts requiring route finding and climbing (with and without ropes)…sounds like just the adventure I was looking for.
Here’s a rough timeline of the trip:
June 19, 2016
550a Arrived at June Lake Trailhead
615a Hiking North towards June Lake
715a-1205p Enjoyed the hike, the view, and new terrain through the East side of St. Helens. I could see staying overnight in the Plains of Abraham on a future visit.
1205p Took a 15 min Lunch under a shady tree at mile 15.5 on the Northwest corner. Most trees were small pines except on the West Side.
200p At mile 19, started climbing 1000ft up Crescent Ridge, ready to be done. Feeling the miles and the heat. Just filled up my Camelback at the South Fork Toutle River.
400p Emptied my camelback, 30 min later without water, filled up again around Swift Creek Flow with ice cold snow melt. Mentally and physically exhausted, but stoked by body was functioning as well as it was. Knees a little achy from the boulder climbing, but feet and hips overall felt good.
645p Reached the Car after miles of grinding out multiple lava flows, skipping boulders, traversing washed out canyons, and daydreaming about the cold water and pineapple in the cooler, realizing 5 hours of sleep the night before was barely enough. I also didn’t take any pictures after starting the climb up Crescent Ridge, since my focus was on finishing and my phone battery was dying.
The Loowit trail is no joke. The unique terrain presents multiple opportunities for injuries, veering off trail, suffering from dehydration, and experiencing extreme fatigue. Traveling counterclockwise had its benefits- I enjoyed having Mt. Ranier in my view heading North on the East side of St. Helens as well as being able to see Jefferson, Hood, and Adams all in one beautiful panorama. The GPS I use drains my phone battery, so I was more willing to take pictures early on versus trying to push through and finish on the Southwest side at the end of the day while trying to capture the view. The lava fields and loose terrain would have been nice to traverse while fresh while it was cooler in the morning if traveling clockwise. Overall, I’m glad I experienced the Loowit Trail and everything it had to offer: amazing views, unique terrain, and the opportunity to push the most miles I’ve ever hiked in one day 31.9!
When it comes to training for this hike, the most important piece for me was hitting at least one longer hike (12+ miles) every 2 weeks. Typically, I can schedule in shorter hikes like Angel’s Rest and Dog Mtn. once a week. During the week, I keep up on my conditioning with short 15-20 minutes incline walking intervals at a fast 3.8-4.2 walking pace. I have also enjoyed using the elliptical to simulate hiking with poles which uses more core and upper body for short 10-15 minutes rounds, also varying the resistance. For strength, I used a lot of step ups with dumbbells to simulate boulder climbing, crawling, various planks, and leg lifts to keep my hips and core strong, as well as general upper body strength like push-ups and pull-ups which came in handy for climbing the ropes and steep side walls of washed-out river beds. Utilizing my triceps with the poles to help decelerate my bodyweight really helped save my knees on the long steep descents too.