As you leave the park, you must backtrack down Forest Road 99, to FR 25. Not far from that intersection, you’ll see a small roadside turnout, for Iron Creek Falls.
A short hike down from the parking area leads to this hidden oasis: a welcome change in scenery from the death and destruction of the blast zone.
If the weather is hot, and the water isn’t too cold, you can take a dip here, and even swim directly underneath the falls.
You can keep the kids busy by letting them climb around on the logs, which are scattered over the creek, just below the falls.
[tmt_info =””]You don’t have to return to Randle. To make a loop back to I-5, take FR 25 south to FR 90 west, which connects with WA Rte. 503. This route will return you to I-5 at exit 21. This USGS map helps you identify the highlights in the region. One point of interest you shouldn’t miss on this route: Ape Cave. You can rent a lantern and hike through long, dark tubes of glassy rock, created by flowing lava.[/tmt_info]
Near Mount St. Helens
Heading back to Randle, you’ll pass through a few areas that have been clear-cut by the logging industry. These barren areas are common throughout the northwest.
Mount Rainier in the distance.
View from near Elbe, Washington
To return to Seattle, you can either continue to backtrack across US 12 to I-5, then head north, or take WA Rte. 7. I chose the latter, since part of Rte. 7 is marked as a scenic highway on some maps. While it does run just west of Mount Rainier, the mountain is out of view most of the time. On my trip, traffic was heavy on this winding 2-lane road, making the journey back to Seattle painfully slow. I-5 would have been a much quicker, and easier, drive.
Above: the best view of Mt. Rainier I could find, at a boat ramp near the town of Elbe.
Note: This trip was first published in 2004.