Road to Mount St. Helens observatory reopens


Travelers who enjoy the scenic, tree-lined stretch of highway leading to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument now have access to the upper reaches once again.

At noon Wednesday, May 3, travelers on state Route 504 — also known as Spirit Lake Memorial Highway — were given access past the gates at Coldwater Lake continuing up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The Washington state Department of Transportation closes the upper portion of the highway each winter because the elevation and geography make it dangerous to clear.

“Because of the unpredictability of winter weather and the unique location of the highway, we’re always faced with new challenges,” said WSDOT highway maintenance worker Kent Palmer. “This winter was no different. Our crews have been hard at work the past several weeks plowing snow, clearing downed trees and removing debris from ditches and culverts in hopes of minimizing springtime repairs and closures and reopening the gates this week.”

WSDOT typically closes the gates to the upper section of state Route 504 near Coldwater Lake between late fall and early winter due to hazardous driving conditions. Last year, WSDOT closed the roadway for the winter Thursday, Nov. 10.

Each year, WSDOT coordinates closely with the U.S Forest Service to ensure state Route 504 is open to travelers headed to the Johnston Ridge Observatory in time for the annual May 18 event commemorating the mountain’s volcanic eruption in 1980.    

Drivers can get the latest traffic details by visiting WSDOT’s travel page, by following WSDOT’s Twitter account or by uploading the WSDOT mobile app.