Visiting a volcano

Best way to see Mount St. Helens? On foot




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.


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.


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.


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.