Special Places

Mount St. Helens is a Very Special Place

Mount St Helens 30th Anniversary, staff onsiteMount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a very unique and exciting place to visit. Within the Monument area there are key recreation sites including visitor centers, interpretive areas, and various other sites of 'special' significance. See the highlighted places below and visit the recreation landing page for more detailed information and an interactive map.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Picture of Autumn ColorsMount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Many available recreation opportunities such as camping, hiking, and biking are available. More info:  www.fs.usda.gov/giffordpinchot.

Highlighted Areas

Sno-Park: Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain Sno-Park is the starting point for the Worm Flows Climbing Route for Mount St Helens Summit. This is the primary climbing route used during the winter. Marble Mountain Sno-Park offers a trail system that includes 25 miles (snowmobile), and 78.4 kilometers ungroomed (ski). This area is shared with motorized and non-motorized recreationists.

Marble Mountain Ski Trail Map (.pdf)

Check Washington State Sno-Parks for current grooming conditions.

Ape Cave Interpretive Site

Ape Cave sits among a mixed-species forest stand. A short, paved trail leads from the newly remodeled and accessible parking lot with visitor center and facilities to the caves lower entrance and interpretive area. The trail continues on to the upper entrance, though it becomes more steep and rough.

Accessible Adventures Video


Ape Cave Information

  • The Third Longest lava tube (13,042’ long) in North America
  • Be sure to practice “Leave No Trace” ethics
  • Cave temperature is 42°F/5.6°C year-round
  • Ape Headquarters Center provides:
  • Be sure to bring:
    • Two sources of light per person
    • sturdy shoes
    • warm clothing

Trail of Two Forests Interpretive Site

This trail loops through two forests that stand side by side, but are separated in age by 2000 years. One forest is old-growth Douglas-fir and western red-cedar and the other is a young forest that was originally engulfed by lava flows from an eruption of Mount St. Helens over two millennia ago. This forest encompasses three-dimensional imprints of trees in the old lava beds called lava casts. The boardwalk trail loops through the two forests, and is kid friendly.

Accessible Adventures Video

Johnston Ridge Observatory

Located at the end of State Highway 504 (52 miles east of Castle Rock), in the heart of the blast zone, the observatory hosts interpretive displays that tell the biological, geological, and human story of Mount St. Helens. Visitors to Johnston Ridge Observatory can enjoy multiple award-winning films, listen to ranger talks, observe the landscape, purchase souvenirs, set off on a hike, or get a light lunch from the food cart. 

Check the Mount St. Helens home page for information on the annual summer Music on the Mountain series held throughout summer at the Johnston Ridge Observatory outdoor amphitheater (in partnership with the Cowlitz County Economic Development Council and the Mount St. Helens Institute).

Take Care of Your Pet and Help Protect the Monument!

A Big Brown Dog on the MonumentTo protect plant and animal life and provide for visitor safety, pets are prohibited at all recreation sites and trails within the Monument’s restricted area. View a general map. Pets are permitted only in designated pet areas and must be on a leash. Lack of shade and summer heat can endanger pets left in cars. For the safety and comfort of your pet, please arrange to leave your pet at home.

Contact any Mount St Helens office for information on where it is safe and legal to bring your pets.

Accessible Adventures Video

Monitor Ridge Climbing Route

The Monitor Ridge Climbing Route is the primary route used by climbers during the summer to reach Mount St Helens Summit. It is a non-technical scramble, gaining 4,500 feet in 5 miles. Most climbers complete the round trip in 7 to 12 hours.

The climbing route used in the summer months begins at Climber's Bivouac south of the volcano. At 3,700 feet elevation, Climber's Bivouac has the highest vehicle access on Mount St. Helens. Start on Ptarmigan Trail #216A which climbs 1,100 feet in 2 1/4 miles to timberline at 4,800 feet elevation.

Above timberline, the route generally follows Monitor Ridge, climbing steeply through lava flows and loose pumice and ash. From timberline the route is marked with large wooden posts to about 7,000 feet elevation. The upper 1,300 feet of the route is unmarked and covered with loose, rock, pumice and ash. On your descent, take care to stay on route. A minor detour may put you far off route at timberline.

Science and Learning Center at Coldwater

The Science and Learning Center is a great resource for schools, science and education  groups interested in field trips and research at Mount St. Helens. The center is also available as a rental facility for special events like family reunions and conferences.

This beautiful facility is located at milepost 43 on State Highway 504, approximately 10 miles west of Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Visitor Information Station: On the weekends, the Science and Learning Center is open to the public. In the winter it is the closest access to Mount St. Helens from the west.  Stop in to get information about exploring the monument, learn about education programs offered, or shop at the bookstore.  A pet rest area is located within the Coldwater Lake area.

There are two trails near the building perfect for exploration. Adjacent to the Science and Learning Center is the accessible Winds of Change Trail, a 1/4 mile paved path leading through a part of the Blast Zone.

The Elk Bench Trail starts near the building and connects with the Lakes Trail, providing stunning views of Coldwater Lake and frequent elk sightings along the way.  Once connected with the Lakes Trail head north along the shore of Coldwater Lake and begin your exploration into Mt. Margaret Backcountry.

Rentals:  The Science and Learning Center has conference rooms available for rental, as well as some rustic or primitive overnight accommodations. We also host special events, including conferences, family reunions and weddings. Contact the Science and Learning Center for more information about rentals.

Educational Programs: The Science and Learning Center hosts schools and provides in-depth and extended education programs to groups visiting the volcano. We offer overnight stays in the Science and Learning Center for education programs as well as hands-on education in the Volcanic Monument. Programs vary from 2 hours to multiple days.

For more information on programs or volunteering, visit the Mount St. Helens Institute's website or contact 360-449-7883.

Lava Canyon Interpretive Site

Discover more about Mount St. Helens eruptive past in this much more stark, higher-elevation setting. Access Lava Canyon Trail #184 at this site. Travel along the trail and explore a mudflow-scoured canyon with views of a waterfall plunging over an ancient lava flow. Continue on the Lava Canyon Trail for more challenging hiking experiences with rewarding views.

Accessible Adventures Video