My first trip to Mount St. Helens was back in March, 2011. It was nearing the end of winter, so I couldn’t get a good view of the mountain due to lingering snow and clouds. This was my first time visiting the Pacific Northwest, so I was highly disappointed when I couldn’t see the mountain.
Driving up from Portland or down from Seattle is a pretty easy drive when visiting Mount St. Helens. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest which was founded in 1908, is truly a sight to behold. “Geographically the forest is divided into the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, the Mount Adams Ranger District, and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.”
When you take the Castle Rock exit from “The Five,” as Southern Californians would say, you enter in to the Toutle Valley. After the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the Toutle River was flooded with volcanic ash that can still be seen today! The devastation the area saw back in 1980 was tremendous. Today, trees and foliage are still recovering, but much of the destruction can still be seen in certain areas.
The trip to the Johnston Ridge Observatory will take roughly 75 minutes. If you drive up in the summer, you’ll likely have clear skies, beautiful wildflowers along the roadside, and many stops to get out and take pictures.
The two things I love to do when visiting Mount St. Helens are walking around Coldwater Lake (which has some great trout fishing) and hiking down to Spirit Lake up by the Johnston Ridge Observatory. These two lakes were formed after the eruption in 1980 and are truly some sights to behold.
If you live or are vacationing in the Pacific Northwest, I encourage you to visit the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. I’ve been eight different times, and I plan to visit even more.