Ride Options on the North Side of St. Helens

A number of people have asked for specific ride routes for the new trail at Coldwater Lake. I’ve put together several of varying difficulties and durations.

I believe you will need a Northwest Forest Pass.

Directions: The area is easy to find. Take Exit 49 at Castle Rock. Head east on Spirit Lake Memorial Highway for 45+ miles. You’ll reach a point where the Coldwater Visitors Center/Science Center is ahead of you. Stay on the road as it bears right and goes down the hill about 1.5 miles. If you are riding the 211, take a left at the boat launch. Weave through the area and park near the lake. The 211 starts on the left (north) side.

If you are starting at the 230A, drive past the boat launch exit for about .5 miles. The trailhead is on the left.

What to Expect: If you are familiar with the south side of the mountain, this stuff is probably going to feel more remote. It’s likely that you will run into some hikers, although not as many as at Ape Canyon. Most hiker traffic will be on the first two miles of the 211. Please be courteous. We are doing our best to build positive relationships out there. Ask them how they like the trail and mention that it has been maintained by mountain bikers. Chances of running into other bikers are slim. You will not have cell phone coverage.

Just the 211: This out-and-back is a bit under 10 miles. It is in the intermediate range for cardio, but riders of all ability levels will find technical challenges. If you are looking for unique and spectacular scenery, this is it. On your south side is Coldwater Lake; to the north is Minnie Peak. Keep your eyes open for elk. There are at least two spots with serious exposure that may be intimidating for beginners. If you aren’t feeling confident, don’t be afraid to walk. At the back end, you will reach a junction at a gorgeous waterfall. The 211 continues straight ahead (east) but is off-limits to bikes. The right line leads to a bridge with a great view. This is a nice place to have lunch.

The Loop: Follow directions for Just the 211, but when you cross the bridge at the back end of the lake, head up the 230. This is hike-a-bike territory, with an elevation gain of about 1,500 to 1,750 feet in two miles. The switchbacks were not built for bikers. The line was cleaned at our June 2013 build day. When you finally huff your way to the top, you will reach an intersection with the 230A. Bear right. Things are pretty moderate for a while but then the downhill starts and you will be able to rock it. Once you pass some logging equipment (left/south side of the trail), you will hit the final 1.5 miles and it is spectacular. Sight lines are big in most places. You will come out at the 230A trailhead. Take a right on the pavement and ride for .5 mile or so to the entrance to the boat launch. Approximate ride length is 12 miles.

The Double-Double: Looking for more mileage? Here you go. Ride the 211 as described above in Just the 211. When you get back to the boat launch, turn left on the pavement and ride over to the 230A trailhead. That 1.5 miles below the equipment that I described as being such a hoot in The Loop will now be your nemesis. It’s a stout but rideable climb to the equipment, which is a good spot to take photos. From there, the grade is slightly uphill for a mile or so. You will reach more equipment at the back of the lake near the intersection of the 230A and the 230. Turn around here and blast the DH on the way back. Total for the Double-Double is approximately 18 miles.

The Mini-Epic: Start at the 230A trailhead and head up. At the back end of the lake, you will reach an intersection with the 230. Skip that and bear right/east towards St. Helens Lake and the Boundary Trail. The total for this out-and-back is only 12 miles, but it will be one of the longest 12-milers you have ever been on. Not long after the intersection, things will start getting very raw. Expect big exposure and narrow, loose tread. This is a hike-a-bike adventure of the finest kind. You will reach a saddle and when you cross it, you will have a phenomenal view right into the crater. There is also an excellent chance of seeing elk in this area. Keep going until you reach St. Helens Lake, which is situated in the top of a volcanic crater. Trees blown down during the 1980 eruption are still floating in the lake. This is a good place to eat lunch. There is also a stone arch that makes for a great photo-op. While it seems like it takes forever to get to the lake, you will be back to the trailhead in short order. The DH features heavy gnarl with big penalties at the top before opening up for flat-out flying.

Loop and a Half: Ride the 211 to the bridge, then head up the 230. At the intersection with the 230A, head toward St. Helens Lake and the Boundary Trail. See info in the Mini-Epic. Descend from St. Helens Lake to the 230A trailhead, before riding the pavement back to the boat launch. Best guess is that this would be about 15 miles, but you will be tired when you’re done.

The Whole Enchilada – If you’re feeling in the mood for an epic, here you go. Follow the directions for the Double-Double (above). Ride the 211 as an out-and-back before heading to the 230A trailhead on pavement. Unlike the Double-Double, you won’t turn around at the intersection of the 230A and the 230. You will go all the way to St. Helens Lake before heading back. Your trip meter is only going to say 22 miles, but trust me – these are nautical miles.

If you have questions, let me know.

Video footage for the 211 – Courtesy of Erik Carlson

Video footage for the 230A, including the section to St. Helens Lake – Courtesy of the White-Bearded Satan

One thought on “Ride Options on the North Side of St. Helens”

  1. I rode the trails today, I was glad to see your description before – thanks! I intended to do The Loop and possibly 230A or part of it, but I ended up doing only 211 + part of 230. The reason was… mosquitoes, which may sound unbelievable! Just after the bridge over where the 230 climb starts, they attacked me in high amount and with real passion: they were getting into my eyes, nose, mouth, ears… I gave up climbing after 20-25min even though the end was getting near and I rarely leave this kind of ambitions. I do not know if this is usual in the area, but I have never encountered such aggressive and coordinated mosquitoes behaviour in Europe.
    If you plan to go there, get a decent spray. I came back covered with little dots and unfinished trail, as things got really serious. Still, 211 and descending part of 230 was fun.

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