Easy with a hard option When St. Helens blew in 1980, it sent nearly four billion cubic yards of debris (enough to fill 982 Rose Garden Arenas) careening down the mountain, revealing this two-thousand-year-old canyon. Today, the route takes hikers across a suspension bridge over the Muddy River and within sixty feet of a majestic turquoise waterfall. The terrain beyond this point isn’t for the fainthearted: steep slopes, creek crossings, and narrow paths line the way to the Ship, a giant, tar-colored lava flow discarded by the volcano 3,500 years ago. —Victoria Nguyen
ROUND TRIP: Up to 5 miles NEAREST TOWN: Cougar, Wash. DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 75 miles PACK: 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Portland; Green Trails Map No. 364
UPDATE: The Lava Canyon trail is closed for maintenance for the month of July 2009, and is due to re-open in August. Contact the Forest Service at 360-247-3900 for updated information.
Silver Star Mountain
Moderate The 1902 Yacolt Burn wiped Silver Star clean of firs and pines, leaving behind enriched soil ripe for wildflowers. This month, more than a hundred varieties, such as Western buttercups and tiger lilies, line the way to the top (4,390 feet). There, you’ll trade floral splendor for an equally stunning sight: sweeping views of Gifford Pinchot National Forest and four snowcapped peaks. —VN
ROUND TRIP: 5.5 miles NEAREST TOWN: Yacolt, Wash. DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 48 miles PACK: 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Portland; Green Trails Map No. 428; a jeep (for rough roads)
Moderate This fast, smooth single-track traces the scenic Lewis River through old-growth Douglas firs and western red cedars every bit as grand as California’s redwoods. It’s an up-and-down roller-coaster ride that will wear the winter right out of your legs, and it has five access points, so you won’t be short on out-and-back options. Most bikers start near Curly Creek Falls, where the trail is flattest and least populated with hikers. Or, for dramatic scenery, crank your gears up the northernmost stretch, where you’ll find a series of rushing waterfalls and dark pools perfect for a cool dip. —Ariel Bleicher
ROUND TRIP: Up to 26 miles NEAREST TOWN: Cougar, Wash. DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN: 83 miles PACK: Mountain Biking Oregon; Green Trails Map No. 365; Northwest Forest Pass ($5)