Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
400.00 ft (121.92 m)
Trail type
4.60 mi (7.40 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is the most common stop for visitors to Mount St. Helens National Monument.  Its popularity is understandable, since the visitor center is perched on a ridge overlooking the 1980 blast zone.  You'll see spectacular views of the steaming caldera as you enjoy the center's comprehensive narrative history of the volcano.

Luckily for hikers, it doesn't take much to get away from the tour buses and crowds.  This 4.6-mile, there-and-back trail is an easy route to a more tranquil experience.  The trail is the perfect place to contemplate the power and devastation that the May explosion exacted on both the mountain and the neighboring area.

From the ridge, peer down onto the tundra-like landscape below and you are likely to spot at least one heard of the roughly 12,000 Roosevelt elk that call the monument home.  The ground foliage you'll see has taken 30 years to take root in the highly alkaline soil.  The most common of these early adaptors include fireweed and field lupine.

For those looking to completely escape from the crowds, this trail can also take you to Coldwater Peak (12.2 miles total, 1,420-foot elevation gain) or down the arduous trail to Loowit Falls (17 miles total with no backpacking/overnight camping options).

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee


Best views of Mount St. Helens.


Dusty trail. Heavy use in summer.

Trailhead Elevation

4,310.00 ft (1,313.69 m)


Big vistas


Nearby Adventures

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington


There is an $8 day use fee at the Johnston Ridge Observatory parking lot. Or you can use an Interagency pass, or possibly a NW Forest pass. (The synopsis data say no fee currently)
Wildflowers are pretty spectacular on the Boundary Trail right now!
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