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Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

There are three visitor centers for Mount St. Helens along Washington State Highway 504. One is just East of I-5, and the other two are in the monument area. The Coldwater Visitor center is at the edge of the monument property and has a distant view of the mountain. The Johnson Ridge Center has the closest and best viewing area that can be reached by road. Trails from the Johnson Ridge center can be hiked for a still closer view. Other viewing locations and trails are available from other directions, but only Johnson Ridge looks into the open top of the mountain. More information can be obtained at

Both the Coldwater and Johnson Ridge centers have exhibits and a movie about the eruption of  the mountain. The Johnson Ridge presentation is the best, especially if the weather is clear. The movie ends with the screen and drapes moving to view the mountain from the theater.

Visits to inside all the visitor centers requires a fee that varies with which places you intend to visit. However, a Golden Age Pass gives free access.

Johnson Ridge is 5 miles north of the crater, it seems closer. The valley was much deeper before the blast.

 Mud and debris from the 1980 blast flowed across the valley and up and over Johnson Ridge. However, the blast forces had already torn the trees from the ground at the ridge before the mud arrived. This is a view from the Johnson Ridge parking area. A short interpretative trail is on top of this ridge, and other trails toward Spirit Lake start here. Much of the area is now recovering from the effects of the blast. It has been 21 years.

200 mm view of crater.

600 mm lens view of crater. In September, there was still snow present. There are also small fumaroles around the dome that produce small amounts of smoke or steam.

By the way, the taller, snow covered peak to the east of Mount St. Helens is Mount Adams.

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