In the spring of 1980, the Mount St. Helens eruption destroyed the surrounding landscape, ecosystem and communities. In a matter of moments the entire north face of the once symmetrical mountain collapsed, sending a massive rock and ice avalanche down the mountain, into Spirit Lake, over a 1,300-foot ridge, and 14 miles down the Toutle River. An explosion of pressurized gases broke through the avalanche, blasting wind and rock across 150 square miles of forest and pushing a column of ash thousands of feet into the air, impacting communities as far away as eastern Washington.
In 1982, the 110,000-acre area was protected as the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, and the resiliency and persistence of nature has prevailed over the dead landscape. Since the violent, nine-hour eruption, regeneration has transformed the area into one of the country's most remarkable resources for volcanic research, recreation and education. In addition to spending some time at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake to learn about natural history, the eruption, and the recovery of vegetation and animal life, visitors can take advantage of trails, picnic areas, viewpoints and campgrounds.
Mount St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument has three main access points/areas:
Overnight camping in the monument is extremely limited, which must be considered when visiting this remote section of Washington. The volcano and monument are truly a giant outdoor science classroom - a living lab where we can better understand how life returns and can flourish even after the most drastic of events and in the harshest of environments. Because of this, the park is intentionally set up to limit the impacts of human activity. Overnight camping is prohibited in most of the monument, including backpacking with the exception of the Mount Margaret Wilderness best accessed via Norway Pass or Coldwater Lake. The park's only campground is the Climber's Bivouac, a small collection of primitive sites on the volcano's south side.
Regardless of the length, pace or ambition of your visit, spending time in and around the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument will enrich your understanding of the region’s volcanic natural history and provide you with an unforgettable outdoor experience.