Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens was absolutely breathtaking!  These photos don’t do full justice.  On a tip from a friend to wait to go until September to miss the mosquitos, we were very disappointed that one of the main visitor centers had closed after Labor Day weekend due to budget cuts.  This wasn’t on the website and so we were surprised when we arrived.  Nonetheless, the other visitor center and the observatory were well worth the trip-as well as the entire drive following the mountain on the way up.

The official gov’t website

Mt. St. Helen’s informational website

Photo library


Volcanogram (live camera)

Virtual drive via google maps (It’s amazing what we can do these days with technology :-))

We took the northern route at the Castle Rock exit off of I-5 as the website mentioned that the Windy Ridge interpretive center was closed due to construction.  We’ll check out the southern route at Woodland/Cougar off of I-5 another time to check out Windy Ridge (apparently an amazing view of the 1980 blast/avalanche/landslide devastation), Ape cave, and Lava canyon.

There are helicopter tours for a small fee, but we opted to take our own route.

Our first stop was the Seaquest visitor center at Silver Lake.  The fee was $5 per adult.  Summer hours at daily 9-5.  Run by the Washington state parks department.

visitor center

mt st helens

Mt. St. Helen’s forest learning center (closed when we arrived :-()  This would have been free and it’s said to be the best exhibit on the mountain.  There is an eruption chamber.

We stopped at most, but not all of the viewpoints along the way (hwy 504-Spirit lake memorial hwy).  This map lists many of the viewpoints.

Toutle river

Sediment retention center-closed for construction

We didn’t stop at the Coldwater ridge visitor center.  We thought it was just a restaurant. 😦

Debris avalanche deposits

Along the way we started to see interesting mountain-like or hill-like deposits of ash/rock that we later learned were called “hummocks.”

Elk rock viewpoint

We didn’t see Harry’s ridge or there was no turnoff to stop.

Bridge across Hoffstadt creek



Castle lake viewpoint

castle lake viewpoint


Loowit viewpoint

mt st helens

mt st helens

mt st helens

We were really curious about the mountain range to the north of the volcano that we saw along the way up the mountain.  One of the peaks had a “tabletop” shape.  When we got almost to the top of the mountain to the observatory we saw an information map that finally mentioned that it was the Mount Margaret Backcountry and Minnie Peak.


Johnston ridge observatory (Named after volcanologist David Johnston who was on the ridge observing the volcano when it blew)  The fee was $8 per adult.  Open May-October (depending upon snow) M-Su 10-6.  Run by the US forest service.

View of the lava dome from the observatory

We watched an interesting movie about Mt. St. Helens in the theater and it was quite an impressive scene when the movie was over and they raised the projector screen and there was the mountain!

mt st helens

Minnie’s peak from the observatory

Minnie's peak

The panorama of the Cascade mountain range from the observatory was amazing!

We didn’t see the “pyroclastic flows” at Pumice plain.

We’re looking forward to checking out the mountain during other seasons and checking out the southern route another time!


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