Hikers and bikers have a unique opportunity for solitude as the strange winter of 2014-15 draws to an end.

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COUGAR, Cowlitz County — At the suspension bridge spanning the Muddy River there was an absence of sound except for the rush of the stream crashing off Mount St. Helens.

But that’s not surprising, since the nearest a car or truck could get to the scenic site in the national volcanic monument was 6 miles to the west.

Hikers and bikers have a unique opportunity for solitude as the strange winter of 2014-15 draws to an end.

Places such as Lava Canyon trail No. 184 are totally free of snow — but miles behind gates closing roads for winter (i.e. snow) recreation or wildlife protection.

This makes it possible for cyclists to ride unconcerned about vehicles on major roads to trailheads, then likely have the trail to themselves.

“It’s such an abnormal year,” said Gary Walker, lead climbing and trails ranger for the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. “Usually, we follow the snow (as it melts and recedes), but this year everything’s open at once.”

On the south side of Mount St. Helens, several cycling or bike-and-hike opportunities exist.

Road No. 83 is gated at Marble Mountain Sno-Park. From the parking lot, it is a 5.75-mile ride with only 275 feet of elevation gain to Lava Canyon, where there are trailheads for the highly popular Lava Canyon trail, plus Ape Canyon trail No. 234.

The loop version of Lava Canyon trail No. 184 is just 1.29 miles with 91 feet of elevation change. It includes great views of waterfalls on the upper Muddy River, including crossing the stream on the suspension bridge.

Road No. 81 is closed by gates near Kalama Horse Camp on the west and at Cougar Sno-Park on the east.

Yet it’s only 2.9 miles from Cougar Sno-Park to the trailhead of Toutle trail No. 238 at Redrock Pass. Another option is to ride from Kalama Horse Camp to the Goat Marsh trailhead.

Walker also said road No. 25 is closed by a gate at the junction with road No. 93. Many miles of road No. 25 heading north are snow-free, although there are no trails until Boundary trail No. 1.

In the Wind River drainage, an excellent bike-and-hike is to park at the gate on road No. 3062, north of Carson National Fish Hatchery, then cycle to the trailhead of Falls Creek Falls trail No. 152A.

On a recent Sunday, there were 36 vehicles parked in the 0.3 miles of road No. 3062 between the gate and the junction with Wind River road No. 30.

Bob Varner, Gifford Pinchot National Forest engineer, said the closed roads will reopen on their regular schedule, rather than early due to the lack of snow.

Those reopenings will be April 1 on roads No. 25 and 3062 and April 2 on roads Nos. 81 and 83. Road No. 90 already is open.

Road No. 8303 to Ape Cave was scheduled to open on April 16, but forest officials opened it last weekend due to a large number of cars parking along road No. 83.

Robin Rose, GPNF recreation program manager, urged forest visitors to pack out any garbage they might bring.

If you go

Two bike-and-hike trips

Lava Canyon

DRIVING: From the state rest area in Cougar, head east for 6.8 miles to the junction with road No. 83 and turn left. Follow road No. 83 for 5.9 miles to Marble Mountain Sno-Park.

BIKING: From Marble Mountain Sno-Park, ride east on road No. 83 for 5.75 miles to Lava Canyon trailhead.

HIKING: Hide your bike and walk Lava Canyon trail, the 1.29-mile loop to the suspension bridge and back.

OTHER OPTIONS: Hike Ape Canyon trail No. 234 up toward the Plains of Abraham or June Lake trail No. 216B to June Lake.

Falls Creek Falls

DRIVING: From Carson, Skamania County, follow the Wind River Highway for 14.2 miles to the junction with road No. 3062, north of the fish hatchery. Turn right on No. 3062 and drive 0.3 mile to the gate.

BIKING: Ride 2.5 miles to the trailhead (280 feet elevation gain)

HIKING: Hide your bike and walk the 1.75 miles (577 feet elevation) to Lower Falls, or ride your bike.

OTHER OPTIONS: A return loop is available. Go back 0.48 miles from the falls and turn right. Climb briefly, but steeply, to trail No. 152 and turn left. This trail will return to crossing of Falls Creek and a trail back to the trailhead.