Mount St. Helens begins to shed winter snow coat as road to Johnston Ridge opens


Mount St. Helens is an elusive wonder. 

It steps out of the morning fog to offer majestic views, only to don a veil of clouds moments later. Still, the headless peak has become an icon of Southwest Washington. And now — if it’s not shying away — visitors can once again enjoy the mountain scenery and Cascade air. 

Washington state Route 504, better known as Spirit Lake Highway, opened on March 24 thanks to the National Forest Service and the state Department of Transportation. 

Mount St. Helens’ many beloved trails and lookout points are accessible, including Johnston Ridge Observatory and its panoramic views of the blast zone. Though trails may be technically open, hikers should prepare to encounter snow at higher elevations.

Johnston Ridge Observatory, which sits about 5 miles north of the mountain at 4,000 foot elevation, was named after U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) volcanologist David A. Johnston. He was one of the 57 people killed by the mountain’s eruption in 1980.

The observatory itself is still closed for the season and will reopen June 6. When open, the building offers learning opportunities about the scientific and societal impacts of the eruption. Entrance for adults (ages 16 and over) costs $8.

Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center at Coldwater Ridge is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May 8 and is free to enter.