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 Cougar, this campground is 9.3 mi (15 km) from Ape Caves and 11.6 mi (18.7 km) from Toutle River. Woodland Motocross Park and Lewis River Golf Course are also within 25 mi (40 km).
Situated in Cougar, this vacation home is 9.3 mi (14.9 km) from Ape Caves and 11.5 mi (18.6 km) from Toutle River. Woodland Motocross Park and Lewis River Golf Course are also within 25 mi (40 km).
Situated in a rural location, this vacation home is 5.6 mi (9 km) from Mossyrock Park and 11.8 mi (19 km) from Ike Kinswa State Park. Gust Backstrom Park and Veterans Wall of Honor are also within 20 mi (32 km).
Situated in Morton, this motel is within a 15-minute walk of Veterans Wall of Honor and Gust Backstrom Park. Mossyrock Park and Ike Kinswa State Park are also within 16 mi (25 km).
Situated on the waterfront, this campground is 4.3 mi (6.9 km) from Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Center and 10.2 mi (16.4 km) from Castle Rock Exhibit Hall. Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center and Cowlitz County Historical Museum are also within 25 mi (40 km).
Situated in Silver Creek, this campground is 5.1 mi (8.2 km) from Ike Kinswa State Park and 11.1 mi (17.9 km) from Mossyrock Park. Gust Backstrom Park and Veterans Wall of Honor are also within 20 mi (32 km).
Situated in a rural location, this apartment is within 25 mi (40 km) of Clark County Fairgrounds, Washington State University Vancouver, and Battle Ground Lake State Park. Moda Center and Portland International Raceway are also within 32 mi (52 km).