When Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, it stood at 9,677 feet until almost 2,000 feet blew off the top of the mountain, reducing the elevation to 8,364 feet. This eruption caused massive destruction and the death of 57 people in the Mt. St. Helens area. The debris and ash flows which followed caused considerable damage to local communities and destroyed an extensive area of forest. The blast is said to have been 500 times greater than the 20-kiloton atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima. Winds reached 670 miles per hour and carried temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared with other volcanoes, Mt. St. Helens ranks amongst the world’s most active and violent mountains.
The Mt. St. Helens area offers many summer and fall activities with jaw dropping views. Numerous trails have been created for you to explore by car and foot. During the summer, US Forest Service interpreters lead a wide range of activities, from short walks to amphitheater presentations, helping you understand and enjoy this area. For the more experienced and adventuresome, climbing permits are required to hike to the top between April 1 and October 31. Another extreme challenge is the backcountry 28-mile Loowit Trail that circumnavigates the volcano.
Locals and visitors alike agree that Mt. St. Helens is a must-see destination when visiting the Columbia River Gorge.