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Even without the peak that used to make it the fifth highest mountain in the United States, Mount St. Helens is an awe-inspiring sight. A devastating eruption on May 18, 1980, reduced the still-active volcano’s elevation by 1,312 feet (400 meters) to 8,365 feet (2,550 meters). Though the flow of gas and rock from the eruption laid waste to the surrounding area, flora and fauna are regenerating and eco-systems are on their way to recovery.
There are two different visitor centers at Mount St. Helens. At Silver Lake Visitor Center watch a 16-minute video detailing the events of the eruption. The Forest Learning Center further along the road is where you’ll learn about the regeneration projects that have taken place in the decades since the 1980 eruption. It’s also a good place to look out for the graceful elk in their natural environment.
You can see the volcano from both visitors’ centers, but the most spectacular view is from Johnston Ridge Observatory, in the heart of the blast zone. Here you can peer right into the crater, or take a helicopter ride for an aerial view. Some visitor centers have an admission fee and are closed during winter.
Hikers should take advantage of the trails around Coldwater Lake, or if you are feeling particularly brave, walk up the volcano itself. You’ll need a permit to do this and numbers are restricted to 100 per day.
While Mount St. Helens is possible as a daytrip from Portland, you could extend your stay by camping in the Seaquest State Park, a year-round camp site near the Silver Lake shoreline. Hike or bicycle through the woodland trails and you may spot some of the wildlife: elk, hawks, woodpeckers, and possibly coyotes and bears.
Situated in the mountains, this campground is within 16 mi (25 km) of Ape Caves, Marble Mountain Sno-Park, and Mount St. Helens. Climbers Bivouac Trailhead and Lava Canyon Trailhead are also within 20 mi (32 km).
Situated on a lake, this romantic lodge is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Cascade Range and within 12 mi (20 km) of Mount St. Helens and Ape Caves. Marble Mountain Sno-Park and Gifford Pinchot National Forest are also within 12 mi (20 km).
Situated in Cougar, this romantic vacation home is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Cascade Range and within 12 mi (20 km) of Ape Caves and Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Mount St. Helens and Marble Mountain Sno-Park are also within 16 mi (25 km).
Located in Cougar, this family-friendly vacation home is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Cascade Range, and within 12 mi (20 km) of Ape Caves and Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Mount St. Helens and Marble Mountain Sno-Park are also within 16 mi (25 km).
Situated in Morton, this motel is within a 15-minute walk of Veterans Wall of Honor and Gust Backstrom Park. Cascade Range is 1 mi (1.7 km) away.
Situated in the mountains, this vacation home is 9 mi (14.5 km) from Woodland Motocross Park and 10 mi (16.1 km) from Cascade Range. Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens and Tri-Mountain Golf Course are also within 25 mi (40 km).
This family-friendly Mossyrock vacation home is located in the mountains, 5.9 mi (9.6 km) from Mossyrock Park, and within 12 mi (20 km) of De Goede Bulb Farm & Gardens and Mayfield Lake. Ike Kinswa State Park is 12.1 mi (19.5 km) away.
Situated in Morton, this vacation home is within 1 mi (2 km) of Gust Backstrom Park, Morton Hospital, and Veterans Wall of Honor. Cascade Range is 1.8 mi (2.8 km) away.