Monumental Mount. St Helens

When I think back to Mount. St Helens, I think of a week’s journey through the blast zone in a van full of college students and camping under the stars in old growth forests. To see the mountain or say volcano up close is and always awe inspiring experience.

This May 18th, will be 40 years since the eruption that forever changed the mountain and the landscape around it. Forty years later, regrowth of plants, two hundred miles of trails wend around newly formed lakes, and lava flows has a visitor a front row seat to nature’s healing. There are a lot of things to see within and around the national monument, and in this post, I will highlight some of the ones worth checking out.

Along the road: SR 504 Spirit Lake Memorial Highway

SR 504 is the major highway within the national monument. The high way terminates at Johnston Observatory and learning center at the top.

A-Frame House Survivor North Fork:

In the small town of Kid Valley there is a roadside attraction called A-Frame House Survivor of North Fork which is buried up to the second-floor balcony in mud flow from the flooding of the Toutle River. There is some humor to the area since it is called “Bigfoot” country, and a huge statue of Bigfoot made out of the mud and ash from the eruption of 1980 stands as an attraction. Here you can take a helicopter for a tour of the volcanic eruption area, and the crater.

Bridge View Point of Hoffstadt Creek Bridge:


The view from this view point is a bridge. This particular bridge spanning cross Hoffstadt river was taken out by flooding resulted in eruption. This bridge is dedicated to all who lost their lives in the 1980 eruption.

Castle Rock View Point:


On the day I stopped the volcano was hidden in a blanket of clouds. From this view point you have a view of the pumice plains out front of the volcano, and hummocks as well.

Coldwater Picnic and Boating Site:

A great stop for a picnic is this beautiful sparkling blue lake. It reminds me of the alpine lakes along the Cascade range, and the small inland in the middle of the lake, Wizard Island of Crater Lake. From here you can jump on the Lakes trail, or take a stroll along the boardwalk.

Pass/ Fees: None

Loowit View Point:

So close to the the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Here you can view the mountain without having to paying the fee to enter the Observatory.

Along the Road East Side: National Forest Road 99

Windy Ridge View Point:

Windy Ridge Viewpoint | Discover Lewis County

The drive to Windy Ridge is spectacular! From this east side of the mountain, the summit is close, more so than from the Johnston Observatory side. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Windy Ridge and listen to the Ranger Talk (it is excellent and is held every hour on the half hour on summer weekends) as you gaze in awe at Mount St. Helens. Then hike up the steep stairs above Windy Ridge where Spirit Lake and Mount Rainier come into view or simply enjoy the view from Windy Ridge itself.

Ape Caves:

The full experience at Ape Cave includes the easy exploration of a spacious lava tube, followed by more difficult travel through a smaller, longer, and more rugged lava tube to an exit. Then, enjoy an easy return hike winding through shady forest and crusty lava formations.

Pass/ Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Meta Lake:

Further on the paved path from the Miners Car is a interpretive trail to this lake which was sheltered from the worse of the blast. This lake is clear blue with tadpoles, and fish.

Pass/ Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Spirit Lake:

Harmony Trail is the only authorization hike down to the shores of Spirit Lake. Here you cab get a closer look at the massive raft of trees blown down in the eruption.

Pass/ Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Trails to Explore:

Eruption Trail:

This hike is less than one mile paved trail from Johnston Observatory with 360 degree view of the volcano.

Pass/ Fees: National Monument Fee and Pass

Hummocks Trail:

This popular trail is the perfect balance of a day hike and easy for children. The trail is relatively a flat loop hike among strange hills called hummocks that were left by the eruption in 1980. Please note to bring water with you if hiking on a sunny day.

Pass/ Fees: None

Lake’s Trail:

The Lakes Trail offers a nice day hike along a volcano-created lake, or a gateway into the Mount Margaret Back-country. From the Coldwater Boat Launch, hop onto the trail skirting the northwest edge of Coldwater Lake. The narrow trail quickly climbs, and then plateaus, leveling out as it passes high above the lake. Grasses sway in the breeze here, and after just a half mile of hiking, encounter a junction, where a trail leads uphill. This heads to the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center.

Pass/ Fees: None. If back country hiking to Mount Margaret will need a Back country reserve permit.

Iron Creek Falls Trail:

This beautiful falls close to the road in the Gifford Pinchot is just the ticket for folks with young children or waterfall hunters. This trail is only 500 feet down a paved path to the view point. You can climb down to the river below with caution.

Pass/ Fees: None

Lava Canyon Trail:

This trail is the most popular and a dangerous trail further you hike on. The first part of the trail is paved interpretive trail with waterfall views. Further on from the view point, the trail becomes more difficult taking hikers along high cliffs, across a suspension bridge, a water crossing, and down a 30 foot ladder into the canyon. Heed all warnings, people die here from falls.

Pass/ Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Boundary Trail:

The trail starts near Johnston Ridge.

Pass/ Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Visitor’s Centers:

Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake

Johnston Ridge Observatory:

Mt. St. Helens

Windy Ridge Interpretive Site:

35th Anniversary of Mt. St. Helens' Eruption at Windy Ridge

Where to stay:

Seaquest State Park Campground – Castle Rock

Timberland Inn and Suites – Castle Rock

Best Western Aladdin Inn – Castle Rock

Kid Valley Campground – Kid Valley

Eco Park Resort – Kid Valley

Iron Creek Campground – Outside Randle on NFD 25

Cougar RV Park and Campground – Cougar

*If you are reading this in real time (2020), please note the Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument maybe closed to visitors along with the surrounding trails due to the spread of COVID-19. Please check road, trail, weather, and health conditions before going.

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2 responses to “Monumental Mount. St Helens”

  1. Vivienne, Vivienne Miller, Miller Avatar
    Vivienne, Vivienne Miller, Miller

    Enjoyed this Lacey.  When were the pics of you taken?

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android


    1. The pics were taken when I was taking the enviromental sustainablity class in college in 2018.


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