Step Falls is the lesser of the two major waterfalls found on the so-called "Sasquatch Steps" on the north flank of Mount St. Helens. When the mountain erupted in 1980, it basically created a catchment basin in the resulting crater. Beginning in the winter of 1980-1981 the Crater Glacier began to form and is currently the largest glacier on Mount St. Helens, as well as the youngest and fastest growing glacier in the United States. Once the glacier began growing, it also began melting and its meltwater has channeled largely into what is now Loowit Creek. A small portion of the glacier drains further west from Loowit Creek and has formed Step Creek in a parallel channel. Like Loowit Creek, Step Creek has also carved a significant canyon into the post-eruption landscape, but because Step Canyon occurs in an area of significantly less resistant material, it is a much bigger, deeper and generally more impressive canyon.
Also like Loowit Canyon, Step Canyon is incredibly unstable and is the site of frequent landslides and avalanches. This instability was the catalyst which led to the formation of the canyon in the first place and has since resulted in parts of the canyon widening as well as significant alterations to Step Falls itself over the years. Google Earth holds imagery which shows that Step Falls has migrated over 200 feet upstream between 1994 and 2009, but even more impressive is that the creek has cut its channel so much deeper in that 15-year span that Step Falls may have been reduced in height by as much as half. When we attempted a full survey in August 2011 the falls appeared to be no more than 120 feet tall, but as little as 15 years prior were closer to 200 feet tall (and perhaps fittingly, 15 years prior to that the falls and canyon didn't even exist).
Lower Step Falls is found about 900 feet downstream from this entry, and can be seen in tandem with Step Falls from most perspectives. Normally we would classify waterfalls with such visible proximity as a single entry, but the significant distance between the two leaps precludes any such groupings. Lower Step Falls has suffered similar alterations and upstream migration over the years, but appears to be situated along a more stable band of bedrock and may subsist longer than Step Falls ultimately will.
- Step Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
Step Creek was named after the Sasquatch Steps, a series of rough terraces and cliffs found on the north flank of Mount St. Helens immediately below the breached crater. Step Falls was then named for the stream.
Step Falls is best seen from the Loowit Trail in the vicinity of the ford of Loowit Creek (see the link for Lower Loowit Falls below for directions), within Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The falls can also be distantly seen from the Boundary Trail starting at about two miles east of the Johnson Ridge Observatory at the end of Highway 504.