May 16, 2010 in Outdoors

4 ways to explore St. Helens

Visitor options range from easy to strenuous
By The Spokesman-Review
File Associated Press photo

Climbers rest after reaching the rim of Mount St. Helens, with Mount Adams in the distance. Climbing permits are required.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

If you go


•A Northwest Forest Pass is required for each vehicle at trailheads throughout the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, including Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

•A daily $8 Monument Pass is required for visitors 16 and older at the Johnston Observatory area. (An annual Northwest Forest Pass can substitute for one Monument Pass. However, an America the Beautiful Pass will substitute for up to four Monument Passes.)


•Monument headquarters: (360) 449-7800

•Johnston Ridge Observatory: (360) 274-2140

•Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Seaquest State Park: (360) 274-0962

Website: gpnf/mshnvm

Thirty years after its explosive eruption, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a world-class destination for visitors interested in nature, geology outdoors recreation and things that go Boom!

Following are some of the many options for experiencing the attraction.

By vehicle

The Spirit Lake Highway (state Route 504) heads 50 miles from Interstate 5 east to Johnston Ridge Observatory. The route passes numerous attractions, each with a different angle. Check out the St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake (operated by Washington State Parks, cost $1-$3), Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center (free) and Weyerhaeuser’s St. Helens Forest Learning Center at milepost 33 (free).

The Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of the road offers stunning views and displays that tell the story of the mountain, its 1980 eruption and the remarkable changes the mountain has endured. Resources help visitors plan activities around the national volcanic monument. A hiking trail leads into the volcano area.

By foot

While the monument has nearly 500 miles of trails to explore, none is more spectacular – or demanding – as the route to the crater rim at 8,365 feet. The route is not technical, but climbers need to pack gear for changing mountain conditions and have the stamina for a 4,500-foot ascent that can take 6-12 hours round-trip. Most trips start from Climbers Bivouac trailhead off Road 830. Permit required. Info:

By bicycle

The Tour de Blast, June 19, attracts 1,400 riders to national monument paved roads in the Mount St. Helens volcanic blast zone. Routes cover 33, 54 or 82 miles, with the longest one tackling 6,240 in elevation gain to fantastic views. Cost: $65. Info:

Mountain bikers can make their own tour on trails in the Plains of Abraham through a unique moon-like experience.

By air

Helicopters tours of the volcano can be booked from providers along Route 504, including one at the Forestry Learning Center. Costs range from $100-250 per person. Info:

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