Mount St. Helens  (MSH)
Visitors Resource Packet
Compiled/Written by Lloyd & Doris Anderson
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East Side & South Side Attractions
(See Map in Awesome Brochure)   (FR=Forest Road)

East Side: Windy Ridge+


1.  Excellent view of Spirit Lake which can’t be seen from the west side highway.

2.  Thirty minute interpretive talks on the half-hour in the Windy Ridge outdoor amphitheater.

3.  Access to some of the best volcano viewpoint trails.

4.  On the Windy Ridge road (FR 99) drive through the ghost forest (dead standing trees seared by the hot blast of the eruption).  See Bear Meadows, Meta Lake, and Harmony Falls in the Blast Zone.  Interpretive talks are sometimes given at each of these viewpoints.

Location:  end of FR 99 which is reached from FR 25, the main road along the east side of the Monument (access FS Road 25 from US 12 on the north, or SR 503 and FR 90 on the south).  If coming from the north, stop at Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station one mile east of Randle to fine-tune East Side stops.

Distances:  north on I-5 from Kelso to US12-28 miles; east to Randle-47 mi.; south on FR 25 to FR 99-19 mi.; west on FR 99 to end of road-15 mi.  Total distance from Kelso to Windy Ridge-109 mi. (allow 3 hours).  If continuing to south side, turn right when FR 99 meets FR 25.  See column two.

South Side: Ape Cave+


1. From the east side junction of  FR 25 and FR 99 drive south about 17 miles to the Muddy River where a lahar (mudflow) scoured the valley to bedrock and left mud lines on trees up to 30’ above the present level of the river.

2. Continue south another 3 miles to the Pine Creek bridge.  Cross the bridge and see a 37-ton boulder carried on top of a second enormous mudflow and deposited on the road 33’ above the creek.  (Lahar stories in Section 2.) 

3. A mile later FR 25 merges into FR 90.  Continue west along Swift Reservoir for another 10 miles to the FR 83 junction and an optional side trip to the popular Ape Cave, one of the longest lava tubes (12,810') in North America which over 100,000 visitors explore each year.

4. Further north off FR 83 is the jumping off place for climbing MSH (you need a permit secured in Cougar).  MSH is the second most hiked volcano in the world.

 5. At the end of FR 83 is Lava Canyon and Lahar   Recreation Area.

 6. Back down to FR 90 which has become SR503 and west about 30 miles one comes to Woodland on I-5.



3g. Copyrights/Sources/Resources

Copyrights.  Unless stated otherwise, all materials in this packet are Copyright © 1999 by Lloyd and Doris Anderson.  You may freely copy and quote portions or the entirety -- together with acknowledgment of source, authorship and this copyright notice; but please do not reproduce for profit without written permission from the respective author(s); all other rights reserved.

Source of Quotations: 

VR.  Volcano Review is the Monument's 16-page paper printed each Spring. 

WM.  Welcome Magazine, Recreation Guide to SW Washington and NW Oregon, is published each May by the Longview Daily News.  WM editor Tom Paulu provides outstanding descriptions of the mountain, attractions and trails from his extensive experience in the recreation areas.

Web Sites:  Excellent & Highly Recommended, a World of Information:

Cam of the crater (updated each 10 minutes):

Hoffstadt Bluff Visitor Center Website:

MSH Creation Information Center:

MSH National Volcanic Monument:

MSH National Volcanic Monument Volcano Review:

Welcome Magazine (Longview Daily News web site--select “Welcome”):

Phone Numbers:  See articles for numbers of individual attractions.

Camping reservations for over 60 WA/OR state parks: 1-800-452-5687

Castle Rock Tourist Information:  360-274-6603

General information on Washington parks (8-5, M-F) 1-800-233-0321

MSH Climbing Information 24-Hour Recording:  360-247-3961

MSH National Volcanic Monument Headquarters (Amboy):  360-247-3900

3h.  Visiting the Mountain

Time Needed for Given Activities.  Minimum Time: you are pressed for time and only have half a day.  Go directly to the end of SR504 for the most spectacular view of the volcano at Johnston Ridge.  Plan 1.4 hours drive to the top and 1.2 back to I-5 (105 miles round trip).  The speed limit is 55.  Three jurisdictions (county, state, federal) patrol the highway and enforce the speed limit.  One Day: Start early.  We recommend reaching the SR 504 exit 49 from Interstate 5 by 9 am.  Even then you can’t read all the displays in one day.  Stop at the 7 Wonders Creation Museum (MP9.5), Weyerhaeuser Forest Learning Center (MP33.5), Johnston Ridge VC & trail and Coldwater Ridge VC (MP43).  Have supper at Hoffstadt Bluffs (MP27).  Day and a Half: Come by the Creation Center and do all the things at Johnston Ridge, Coldwater Lake and Coldwater Ridge in the first day.  Stay overnight in the area.  Do Weyerhaeuser and the main visitor center the second day.  If the first day is a half-day, come by the Creation Center, then see the main VC and camp across the highway in the state park (make reservations, 1-800-452-5687).  See the things up the highway on the second day.  Two Full Days: Visit the West Side one day (SR504) and the East Side on the other.  Three Days:  Spend a day on each side:  West Side, East Side and South Side.  Or two days on the West Side and one on East or South.

Stop at the 7 Wonders Creation Museum for:

   refreshments - restroom - displays - bookstore - slide presentation - guide service

We encourage the above services to be scheduled in advance, but those who arrived unannounced can enjoy them as resources allow.  Of primary interest are the displays and bookstore.  However, after several hours of travel the refreshments and restroom may also be appreciated.  The slide presentation was given 104 times in 2000 and over 20 groups received all-day guide services. Our visitor units include individuals traveling alone, couples, families, groups of families, home school groups, Christian school groups and church groups.  All services are provided on a grace basis.

Presentation and/or Tour Guide for Groups up to 25

Because our facilities are small, we can offer such groups the following hospitality:

·         Simple refreshments or broader selections of morning coffee, fruit, pastries, and cheese served on our partially covered deck overlooking a seasonally changing wetland.

·         Slide presentation on volcanoes, the eruption and the 7 wonders (30-90 minutes of detail as desired).

·         Displays and literature.  The museum consists of pictures and text on walls showing the seven wonders and related subjects.  The bookstore has 20+ free papers and sells over 100 creation titles.  Chairs allow visitors to relax as they look at the literature. 

·         Guide service.  Have Lloyd ride along with you and introduce the science and attractions along Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (State Route 504).

Larger Groups:  Bring your bus or charter one (we can give you information about various bus services) and we will narrate your trip.  However, we have no place to show bus-sized groups the slides. 

Weather/Gear:  The best months to see the mountain are July and August, but on any given day the mountain may hide behind a cloud or even be obscured by rainfall.  Bring jacket/rain gear & hat, walking shoes, pack, lunch, water, sun screen, field glasses & money for admission to government visitor centers.

Johnston Ridge Hike:  The schedule below allows two hours to hike 1.75 miles east along Johnston Ridge and 1.75 miles back.  Omitting this hike allows more time at the visitor centers, another hike, walking several interpretative trails or returning home sooner.  See hikes and trails --3e.

Suggested West Side One-Day Schedule.

Leave Portland (Seattle)

Creation Center: Food, Rest Stop, Slides

Weyerhaeuser Forest Learning Center

Eat Sack Lunch at WFLC or Coldwater Recreation Area

Johnston Ridge Observatory (& Hike)

Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center

Arrive Portland (Seattle)

8:00 a.m. (7:00 a.m.)

9:30 - 11:00

11:30 - 12:15

12:15 - 1:15

1:30 - 4:30

5:00 - 5:30

7:45 (8:30) 

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