Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

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Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

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  • View of Mount St. Helens (8,365') from Johnston Ridge.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Steam rising from the Mount St. Helens caldera and the ever growing central dome.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • View north from the Mount St. Helens summit.  Mount Rainier (14,409') and Spirit Lake are at the center.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • View of Mount Adams (12,281') from the Mount St. Helens summit.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • View of Mount Adams (12,281') from the Mount St. Helens summit.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Outdoor Project Contributor Josh Lupkin takes in a beautiful sight: looking into the crater of Mount St. Helens (8,365') from Norway Pass.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mount Adams (12,281') from Norway Pass.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Coldwater Lake and Minnie Peak (5,614') in the distance.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Magenta Douglas's spiraea along the Coldwater Lake Trail.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Coldwater Lake and Minnie Peak (5,614').- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Coldwater Lake and Minnie Peak (5,614').- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • View looking east from Johnston Ridge toward Spirit Lake and Mount Adams (12,280').- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Coldwater Peak (5,727') from Johnston Ridge.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mount St. Helens (8,365') from the Hummocks Trail.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Beaver marsh along the Hummocks Trail.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Ape Caves.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Ape Caves.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Field of bear grass just outside of Ape Caves.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Trail of Two Forests: The exit of "The Crawl" - Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Trail of Two Forests.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Lava Canyon.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Suspension bridge over Lava Canyon.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Lava Canyon Falls.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Lava Canyon.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Old-growth Douglas fir in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument's south side.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mount St. Helens Scale Comparison.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mount St. Helens Scale Comparison.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Abundant Indian paintbrush at the Loowit Viewpoint.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • An impressive view of downed trees and into the mouth of Mount St. Helens from a peak near Coldwater Peak.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mount Hood in the distance from the Mount Margaret Backcountry.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Mount Adams above the rampaged slopes of the Mount Margaret Backcountry.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • Sulfur vents actively smoking from the lava dome within the crater.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
  • The obvious layers of various types of rock are clearly visible from the crater rim.- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Geological wonder. Informative visitor centers. Numerous recreational opportunities.
Cons: 
No campgrounds on the north side (Johnston Ridge area). No dogs in the blast zone.
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Region:
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, WA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

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.

Visiting the Park

Mount St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument has three main access points/areas:

  • Northwest Side: Access along the Toutle River to the 1980 'blast zone' via WA Hwy 504 is by far the park's most popular and famous destination, with the Johnston Ridge Observatory as the areas main attraction.  Here visitors will enjoy panoramic views of the 'blast zone' and glimpses into the volcano's steaming caldera. Day-hikes include the Johnston Ridge Boundary Trail, Coldwater Peak, hikes around Coldwater Lake and the Hummocks Interpretive Trail
  • Northeast Side: Acccessed from Randle, Washington along NF-25, this entrance brings visitors to Mount St. Helen's remote northeastern side, but features easy access to famous Spirit Lake, the Mount Margaret Wilderness (where backpacking is permitted), Windy Ridge and further to 186 ft. Loowit Falls and the Plains of Abraham.
  • South Side: Access is via WA Hwy 503 to this still lush and densely forested side of the volcano. The climb to the mountain's 8,365 ft. summit via Monitor Ridge is certainly the main draw for the area, but other geological wonders also make this side of the volcano quite popular.  Attractions include: Ape Caves, the Trail of Two Forests, June Lake, Ape Canyon and the Plains of Abraham, and the countless waterfalls that descend down Lava Canyon.

Camping

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.

Note however that there are several privately run campgrounds/lodging options at the monument's WA Hwy 504 entrance, including the Eco Park Resort and the Kid Valley Campground.

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.

Updates, Tips + Comments

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(7 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(40 within a 30 mile radius)

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