Johnston Ridge Observatory

Area Status: Closed
Exterior with St. Helens in background

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. Enjoy a breathtaking view of the volcano and crater or set out on a hike in the blast zone.

US Geological Survey Volcano Camera at Johnston Ridge Observatory - This static image is from a USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory research camera located at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, north of Mount St. Helens.  The view is to the south.  This camera is intended to assist the USGS with situational awareness. At times, clouds, rain, and snow obscure visibility.  Because this camera is located in a harsh environment, it may sporadically breakdown and go off-line for extended periods of time before repairs can be made. The image refreshes every 5 minutes.

To protect plant and animal life and provide for visitor safety, pets are prohibited within the Monument’s restricted area. View a vicinity 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 Johnston Ridge Observatory (360) 274-2140 or Mount St. Helens Administrative Headquarters (360) 449-7800 for information on where it is safe and legal to bring your pets.

Learn more about the area in this Accessible Adventures Video:

At a Glance

Current Conditions: 03/25/2022: Johnston Ridge Obveratory is closed, but SR 504 Spirit Lake Highway to Johnston Ridge Observatory is open. Check weather forecast for the Johnston Ridge area (4,000 foot elevation).  Nearest restrooms are at Coldwater Lake. Pack out all trash.
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Closest Towns: Castle Rock, WA or Toutle, WA   Be aware the last gas stations on Highway 504 are in Toutle, WA and on Highway 505, are in Toledo, WA. No gas available at Johnston Ridge Observatory or Coldwater Science and Learning Center.
Water: Potable Water
Restroom: Yes during open hours
Passes: No passes or fees currently required.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center:


General Information


From Castle Rock, WA take State Route 504 east for 52 miles to Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of State Route 504.


The center has accessible parking, facilities, and trails. This is a great place for all visitors to enjoy what the monument has to offer.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

Take a .5 mile walk on the Eruption Trail and learn how the eruption shaped the surrounding landscape. Visitors can expect to see views of the lava dome, crater, pumice plain, and the landslide deposit.

Explore other westside hikes and activities including Coldwater Lake.

Viewing Scenery

Visitors can expect to see views of the lava dome, crater, pumice plain, and the landslide deposit.

Visitor Programs

Volunteer at Johnston Ridge Observatory!

Our Volcano Volunteers are one of Mount St. Helens best resources. We’re proud of and grateful for our volunteers who since 2006 have logged thousands of hours helping out at Mount St. Helens. Our Volcano Volunteers lead hikes, guide school groups, and share information with the public at the Monument’s visitor centers and other tourist sites. They greatly enhance visitors’ experiences at the volcano by explaining scientific information, monument rules, and travel and safety tips.

If you’d like to join this wonderful group of outdoors-oriented folks, consider becoming a Volcano Volunteer. You’ll be rewarded with new knowledge, stronger communication skills, and a chance to spend time in the blast zone. We’re looking for individuals with good speaking skills and an ability to lead groups. A science background is helpful but not required. We request a commitment of at least 4 days per month for a minimum of two months. If you’d like to volunteer for a longer amount, that’s great! We need volunteers for up to six months at the Monument.

To become a Volcano Volunteer, you must attend a free training session, held in the spring or early summer. At this training you’ll learn alongside Forest Service employees and professionals. You’ll also receive a free uniform, housing and opportunities to join Institute educational outings.

For more information contact the Mount St. Helens Institute's Amy Tanska at or 360-449-7826.

Interpretive Areas

In the summer, join a ranger talk or guided hike and learn about the events that occurred during the 1980 eruption and the changes that continue to transform the landscape.  Ranger and Junior Ranger programs are offered each hour, inquire about the schedule at our information desk.

Visitor Centers

Services include a wide-screen theater presentation, interpretive exhibits, a staffed information desk and a Discover Your Northwest books sales area. There is a food cart in the parking lot at Johnston Ridge during the summer season.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
4255 - 4214