This scenic town in Washington State is famous as a gateway to the Mount St. Helens volcano, but it also delights with its parks, playgrounds and museums.
Kelso is a small town close to Mount St. Helens volcano. As such it is a popular vacation spot for travelers to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument where they participate in a range of outdoor pursuits. Explore the natural phenomenon and then discover what the town has to offer.
The national monument was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. The protected area covers 110,000 acres (44,515 hectares) encompassing mountains, lakes and forested areas.
Hike or cycle through extensive trails that traverse mountains and forests. Stop at various points along the way to photograph the volcano. Some of the best views are from the open-air theater at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The vantage points look directly into the crater, some 5 miles (8 kilometers) away. During the summer, the theater hosts the Music on the Mountain concert series.
Take the boardwalk nature trail at Coldwater Lake. Go horse riding along the Sheep Canyon Trail and explore long lava caves. During the winter go cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the Sno-Park: Marble Mountain.
Beginners and experienced climbers who want to reach the top of the volcano will need a climbing permit.
When you are back in Kelso, take your time exploring the town’s attractions. Unwind in some of the many parks. The Rhododendron Gardens is noted for its flora while Tam O'Shanter Park is a popular picnic spot with a large children’s playground. If you like golf, play the 18 holes at the Three Rivers Golf Course.
While you are downtown visiting shops and restaurants, set aside a couple of hours to visit the Cowlitz County Historic Museum. View exhibits that explore the history of life in Southwest Washington.
Kelso is easy to reach by road and rail or by flying into Southwest Washington Regional Airport.
September is a good month to visit the town as you can join locals for a weekend of celebrations during the Highlander Festival. The two days of Scottish- and Celtic-themed fun includes games, parades, costumes and caber tossing.