May 18, 2020 will be 40 years since Mt. St. Helens blew her top! It might be the year that you get around to traveling up the mountain, or you might be returning to see how it has recovered. The photo above was taken in March--not the best time to access all the mountain has to offer!
Mt. St. Helen’s is a 3-dimensional mountain, and it has 3 sides to access. Accessible Adventures, an excellent video series by John Williams, has a video of each side:
South side—via Hwy 503 from Woodland, WA--Ape Caves (not accessible,
but a small headquarters & restrooms are), Trail of Two Forests (accessible boardwalk loop might still cause some trepidation without a helper), Lava Canyon (said to be accessible but steep; “outstanding views”)
Note: If you return on the same route, you will surely want to stop
to picnic & play in the accessible swimming area of Yale Park, on Yale Lake;
restrooms, tables, boat ramp; no use fees Mon-Thurs when we were there . . .
East side—via FS roads 25 & 99; usually open from mid-July.
Winding, slow roads—relax and enjoy the drive; Bear Mtn viewpoint has accessible viewing, picnic area, restrooms; Miner’s Car has accessible view, paved/boardwalk trail to neighboring Meta Lake with accessible view; viewpoints on the way to Windy Ridge
West side—via Hwy 504, Castle Rock, WA to the Johnston Ridge Observatory
The following article is about the west side.
Mt. St. Helens Forest Learning Center
On your way up Hwy 504 you will come to the Mt. St. Helens Forest Learning Center (not to be confused with the Mt. St. Helens Science and Learning Center, mentioned below). It's free, has a beautiful view, restrooms, exhibits, playground . . .
Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center
The Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center, 43 miles up Hwy 504 from I-5, is open weekends in the off-season, with kid activities, and is a rentable venue for groups. We didn’t take time to go there this trip. On their website they have good info on all sides of the mountain, as well as links to videos of the 1980 blast, and 30 years later:
(connections to videos worked, except a couple)
for info on activities (dated 2018, so check about 2020)
Spectacular views draw your eyes as you drive across equally spectacular bridges on Hwy 504. Plenty of viewpoints, so the driver can also enjoy looking.
When I have gone up the mountain before, I was anxious to get to the top, so didn’t take time along the way. This time, we not only checked out some of the viewing opportunities, we ate a picnic lunch at Coldwater Lake.
I am so glad we did!
Wonderful wooden decks give great views out over the clear water. No fishing or swimming off the decks. Paved path loops back to the parking lot, but it’s not for the wheelchair weary or faint at heart. Have a helper on hand just in case.
Johnston Ridge Observatory
Johnston Ridge Observatory is a fee area, but this was a fee-free day (Public Lands Day); I have a National Parks Disability Access pass, so it’s free for me and up to 3 accompanying anytime
Kids 15 and under free; 4th grader pass plus 3 free; disabled access pass free; military pass free
To extend your stay and play--
venues from Mt St Helens going west (downhill) on Hwy 504:
Restaurants in Castle Rock east of I-5, on Hwy 504
(Hawaiian, Seafood, Irish, 11 miles south, in Longview, WA)
I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.