Views of Mount St. Helens

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Back in Washington, I planned to stop for the night in Chehalis.  But it wasn’t quite dark yet, so I decided to see what Mount St. Helens looks like at sunset.

The mountain itself is a good hour’s drive east of I-5, but I was able to catch a glimpse of it beyond Silver Lake.

I took this picture (above) from a boat ramp, off of WA Rte. 504, the Spirit Lake Highway.  If you continue east, the road will take you to the Johnson Ridge Observatory, which is the viewpoint closest to the volcano crater.

Spirit Lake Highway won’t provide you with a good view of Spirit Lake.  So why the name?  During the mountain’s devastating 1980 eruption, the upper portion of the road (which at that time did reach Spirit Lake) was blown away.  The lower portion was also damaged by mudslides.  Road crews rebuilt the highway, and reopened it in 1992.

If you want to see Spirit Lake, you’ll need to make a longer trip.  And we will… but not today.  With the sun setting, I headed back to Chehalis to spend the night.

My visit to Mount St. Helens in September 2004 came just a few weeks before several minor eruptions.  It was the first time the volcano had been active since the mid 1980’s.

US 12 – Near Mossyrock, WA: Riffe Lake Overlook

Leaving Chehalis on Day 6, head south on I-5 to US-12, then head east.  The road to Mount St. Helens is about 55 miles away, but you’ll travel through some fine scenery along the way.

About halfway between I-5 and Randle, WA, US 12 passes by Riffe Lake.  This is the view from the side of the road.

I took another detour at Mossyrock, WA, looking for the Mossyrock dam.  I found it, and it wasn’t all that spectacular, so I advise you don’t waste your time.

Hopkins Hill – Near Morton, Washington

Just a short distance past Riffe Lake, you’ll see a turnoff promising a viewpoint of Mount St. Helens.  The picture above shows all you’ll be able to see from this vantage point. The mountain is there, but the view isn’t great.

This sign is faded, but otherwise looks just the same as it did, when I visited as a kid, back in 1988.

From here it’s only a few more miles to Randle, a tiny town that marks the turnoff to Mount St. Helens’ Windy Ridge viewpoint.

Fill up on gas, and stock your car with snacks and drinks in Randle.  Once you leave town, headed towards Mount St. Helens, there are no more gas stations, and only one store (inside the park boundary).  Also consider taking a bathroom break in Randle, since there is no running water anywhere on Windy Ridge.

Note: This trip was first published in 2004.

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