Gifford Pinchot areas remain closed

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CENTRALIA — Thinking about heading to Mount St. Helens?

An unusually light snowpack in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest — specifically the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument — may have some people ready to pack the car, take the kids and head on out to the mountain. But there are no plans yet to open any areas early that normally close for the winter, according to John Givvines, visitor information specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.

That means Johnston Ridge Observatory will remain closed until May 18, and Forest Roads 25 and 99, which offer access to the Windy Ridge viewpoint from Randle in east Lewis County, will remain closed until likely late June.

Windy Ridge, just 35 miles south of Randle, offers a view of Mount St. Helens from the northeast. That view is popular because it affords visitors a head-on look at the side of the mountain from which the eruption and landslide cut a sizable chunk from the peak. Spirit Lake is also visible from the viewpoint, and hundreds of logs blown down in the 1980 blast still float in the waters.

Meanwhile, state Highway 504 is open to the Hummocks Trailhead just 2 miles past the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater. The gate remains closed to the Johnston Ridge Observatory 7 miles down the highway despite the road being free of snow.