Learn, play and relax in the shadow of Mount St. Helens

Kids on walking path at Mount St. Helens Visitor Center.

The .6-mile walk on Silver Lake outside the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center is a mellow stroll with mountain views (on clear days) and wetland birds, plants and animals.

May 15, 2019

Many of you still remember May 18, 1980, when Mount St. Helens erupted, decimating the land and blanketing parts of the northwest in ash.

And those of you who were kids or not yet born have probably heard stories…

Happy Anniversary, Mount St. Helens

Since the blast’s anniversary is upon us, and May is Volcano Preparedness Month, why not plan a trip to Washington’s famous volcano?

The natural launchpad for Mount St. Helens explorers is lush, wooded Seaquest State Park.  

Park yourself in an RV spot, tent site or one of the park’s five heated yurts, and take the tunnel under Spirit Lake Highway to the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center.

Seaquest State Parks offers yurts as an alternative to tent camping.

Seaquest State Park’s yurts offer an alternative to tent camping and RVing.

Where learning meets fun

The museum’s exhibits bring to life the mountain’s geology and history, and park staff offer hourly talks in spring and summer, taking you from  its peaceful past to the earth-shattering 1980 explosion and the area’s recent recovery.

The whole family will enjoy the large, step-in model of Mount St. Helens, and kids can earn Junior Ranger badges with self-guided tours. Geology geeks will be mesmerized by the seismograph and the live feed from the mountain. The harrowing tales of last-minute evacuations before the eruption are unforgettable!

And as Riley Woods, age 8, says, "the thing that is most amazing to me is the recovery of nature around the mountain.  The combination of the gray landscape mixed with all the colors of spring and summer are my favorite things to stand and look around at."

Teenagers pose at Johnston Ridge Observatory with Mount St. Helens in the distance.

Friends enjoy views of Mount St. Helens’ blown-out crater from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Road trip within a road trip

Kids and adults will enjoy the U.S. Forest Service  Johnston Ridge Observatory.  Harry’s Ridge trail (opening in mid-June) leaves from the observatory and offers close-up looks at the infamous crater. Nearby Coldwater Lake and the uniquely volcanic Hummocks Trail are worthy hiking destinations with stunning scenery, all 30 within miles from Seaquest. (A Northwest Forest Pass is required.)

Park sweet park: your home base at Seaquest

Back at Seaquest, take an evening wander on the Wetland Haven trail across from the park for mountain views (on clear days), riparian vegetation, migratory birds and dramatic reflections on the glassy water. Silver Lake is a soul soother after a day on the windswept slopes of St. Helens. On Sunday mornings at 9:30, park staff offer guided walks from June through September.

Kids looking to burn off that last ounce of steam will gravitate to Seaquest’s playground, with its human-made sand dune. But make sure they save a little “oomph” for the fun, educational Friday evening Junior Ranger programs

For the angler in the family, a public boat ramp is available 5 miles east of Seaquest with a fishing spot for largemouth bass, rainbow trout, Coho salmon and yellow perch.

Don’t forget to build in some do-nothing time at the park, where secondary old-growth canopy provides a backdrop for classic camping, cookouts and marshmallow roasts. All tucked away in the forest, you are sure to get a good night’s sleep at Seaquest State Park.

Inside the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center.

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center across from Seaquest State Park makes an excellent first stop on a trip to the area.

Learn More

Ready to plan your trip to Mount St. Helens? Here's some more great resources for you:

Love the parks? Buy the posters!
Get a copy of your favorite state parks icons at the Washington state parks store.
Collect them all and put them on your wall!

Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center icon printSeaquest State Park icon print

Do you have an state parks story to share?
Visit our Story Share page today!

Looking back and up at Mount St. Helens.

Parting shot: Mount St. Helens’ crater shimmers in the sun from a trail near the Johnston Ridge Observatory.