Visit this gentle trail climbing through old lava flows, lodgepole pine trees, meadows of wildflowers and huckleberries with breathtaking views of Mount St. Helens. A creek at Lower Butte Camp offers a good opportunity for camping and plenty of day hike potential on to the Loowit Trail.
Starting on the Toutle Trail (signed for Blue Horse Trail 237 and Blue Lake Trailhead), the trailhead begins at 3,067 feet of elevation. A short hill from the parking area brings you to an open boulder field of old lava flow and, depending on time of year, may be scattered with beargrass.
Winding through the large boulders on a well worn path, a clear day will provide you will a wide open view of Mount St. Helens and all its glory. Leaving the moonscape of boulder field, enter into a meadow of lush beargrass, short pine trees, huckleberry bushes and wild strawberries.
A Y junction at about one half mile from the trailhead gives you the option of going left or right. Here, you will continue on the trail to the right. Shortly after, at about .6 miles, am infrequently-used ski trail crosses your path and you will continue forward with a gentle climb through pine groves. At just after one mile from the trailhead, you come to an intersection and take a right with a sign posted for the Butte Camp Trail 238A.
One mile after the intersection, the trail continues to climb gradually through a lodgepole pine forest and the terrain becomes more dirt, rock and roots and the landscape dotted with lupine and moss. A half mile later (2.5 miles from the trailhead), you will enter a meadow of tall grass, wildflowers and trees.
A creek flows along the trail and through the grasses here. This is Lower Butte Camp, elevation 4,024 feet. Several campsites are available here. Follow meandering trails through trees and meadow to find a cozy spot if you are seeking a place to stay for the night. Stop here or continue on to the end of the trail for views well worth the extra climb ahead.
From Lower Butte Camp, the trail climbs another 726 feet of elevation and 1.5 miles to the Loowit trail. Switchbacks through tall trees and sword ferns and somewhat narrow trails along open ledges offer views on a clear day of Mount Hood, Trapper Creek Wilderness peaks, Silver Star and the Indian Heaven Wilderness. Wildflowers growing out of the hillside and short trees bursting with pinecones remind us of the beauty that followed the destruction of the 1980 eruption and how nature rebuilds itself over time.
Subalpine meadows and views of Mount Saint Helens grace the Upper Butte Camp. The end of the Butte Camp Trail is where it joins with the Loowit trail at 4,750 feet elevation and 4 miles from the trailhead.
Views of Mount St. Helens from here are breathtaking and a great place to pause to refuel and listen to the sounds of pika and grasshoppers and breathe in glory of the volcano towering above you before returning the way you came or continuing on to the Loowit Trail for more adventure.