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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.

A photo of Mt. St. Helens volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980

Courtesy of Skamania County Historical Society

Hidden Gems

EXPLORE + CAVES: Get outside at Mt. St. Helens Ape Caves and explore the lava tubes and hike through shady forests and crusty lava formations.
HIKE: Discover beautiful June Lake as you hike its trail that gently climbs through a young forest along June Creek with views of Mt. St. Helens.
VIEWS: Visit Windy Ridge and climb the 368 steps on the Sandladder to an amazing viewpoint overlooking Spirit Lake, located in the heart of the 1980 blast zone.


Mt. St. Helens Forest Learning Center
Located inside the blast zone of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens on Hwy 504. Learn about forest recovery, reforestation and conservation of forest resources in the Mt. St. Helens area.
Johnston Ridge Observatory
Just 5.5 miles from the crater at an elevation of 4,314 ft. (1,327m) and offers grand views of Mt. St. Helens and much of the 1980 blast zone. This visitor center is the closest you can get to the mountain by car and offers spectacular views of the still-steaming lava dome, crater, pumice plain and landslide deposit.
Windy Ridge Viewpoint
One of the best places to overview the Mt. St. Helens area devastated by the 1980 eruption. The landscape is littered with sand and gray rocks from the event. Deposits of the debris avalanche are visible to the west. These include the lower parts of The Spillover, where the debris avalanche traveled up over Johnston Ridge and into the South Coldwater area. Listen to an interpretive talk or venture up 361 steps to a viewpoint of the volcano and Spirit Lake.
McClellan Viewpoint
Great lookout providing a distant but outstanding view of the mountain. Best place for a sunset!

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For more details about Mt. St. Helens & Gifford Pinchot National Forest, please click on the map below.

A map displaying Mt. St. Helens, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding areas