Visiting a volcano

Best way to see Mount St. Helens? On foot

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North

photoA group of kids play hacky sack at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

(/The Columbian)

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Johnston Ridge Observatory: 52 miles east of Castle Rock. Wide-screen theater presentation, interpretive exhibits, book sales, ranger programs and limited food service. An $8 per person per day monument pass is required, children up to 15 are free.

Coldwater Lake: Four and a half-mile-long, 800-acre lake created in 1980 when the Toutle mudflow dammed Coldwater Creek. Picnic tables, boat ramp, fish-cleaning station, and restrooms. Trailhead is here for Lakes trail No. 211 along shore of lake.

South

photoInterpretive Ranger for the U.S Forest Service Kristin Kahler leads visitors from British Columbia through the Ape Cave on the Southern flanks of Mt. St. Helens.

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Ape Cave: A short walk from the parking lot leads to the 2.25-mile cave, which is an underground lava tube and one of North America's longest. Bring two reliable sources of light and a jacket for each person because it's 42 degrees down there even in summer. A Northwest Forest Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required.

June Lake trail No. 216B: An easy 1.2-mile climb from road No. 83 to June Lake, a small lake with a sandy shore and a scenic waterfall cascading in on the back side. Great place to go with young children. A Northwest Forest Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required.

Lava Canyon: The canyon was unearthed by mudflows during the eruption of May 18, 1980. Lava Canyon trail No. 184 makes a nice loop complete with a suspension bridge to view the series of waterfalls as the crystal-clear Muddy River flows through the canyon. A Northwest Forest Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required.

East

Windy Ridge: At the end of road No. 99, this is the destination spot on the east side. It offers a panoramic look at Spirit Lake. A Northwest Forest Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required.

Harmony Trail: Harmony trail No. 224 drops about 600 feet elevation in a mile to the shore of Spirit Lake. It is the only public access to the lake. A Northwest Forest Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required.

West

photoHikers cross this 1,900-year-old lava flow just moments after leaving Redrock Pass trailhead on Toutle trail No. 238 in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

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Toutle trail: A short hike on Toutle trail No. 238 leads to Blue Lake. The small lake was created 600 years ago by a mudflow that blocked the creek. Trailhead is accessible off road No. 8123. A Northwest Forest Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required.