This sweet little hike on the south side of Mount St. Helens is a good destination for families seeking a short day hike, but it is also one access point for the round-the-mountain Loowit Trail.
The trail begins at the edge of a gravel parking lot just off Forest Road 83. An information kiosk at the edge of the lot has a map of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument as well as information for visitors; if you haven't already got a map in your pack, snap a shot of this map to carry with you as you hike.
A brown sign with arrows clearly marks the start of the trail leading toward June Lake Ski Trail and the 1.5-miles long Pika Ski Trail. This trail provides both a family-friendly hike and the shortest access to the Loowit Trail; making this a well traveled trail for hikers, backpackers and snowshoers.
Climb gently, starting at Swift Creek and working your way in and out of second-growth forest. You will continue along or above the creek. The trail is primarily dirt, sand and rocks with some roots and log steps along the way. Along the trail, depending on the season, you may see ferns, huckleberry bushes, wild strawberries, lupine, trillium, avalanche lilies, or beargrass, while Mount St. Helens plays peek-a-boo through the trees to your left.
A mile in, the trail descends gradually and crosses a bridge. Just past the bridge, you will come to the intersection on the left for Pika Ski trail. At this intersection, continue forward on the trail toward June Lake. Just before you get to the lake, the trail opens up to an area with short trees and rocks. Here, a spur trail bends left to connect with the Loowit Trail. Since you're heading to June Lake, continue forward at this point, making your way through the trees.
Sitting pretty at 3140 feet, June Lake is a charming little lake formed by a 2,000 year old lava flow, which blocked a tributary of Swift Creek. The cool, clear water is lovely on a sunny day, dotted with logs growing small shrubs and trees, which cast reflections on the water.
The sound and sight of a 70-foot waterfall across the lake adds magic to the area as it spills over a basalt cliff onto a mass of bright green mossy rocks. Smaller waterfalls cascade down the rocks on either side as a bald eagle soars above. Peer into the water along the silty lake bottom and you may see periwinkles and salamanders. It's a perfect place to have a picnic before returning the way you came or continuing on to other connecting trails.