Johnston Ridge Observatory

Area Status: Closed
This area is Closed

Johnston Ridge Observatory with volcano in backround.

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 out 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

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Closed for the winter season. State Route 504 gated at milepost 45. Coldwater Science and Learning Center at milepost 43 open weekends only, 10 am to 4 pm.
Operational Hours: Closed November through mid-May.
Fees $8/person/day
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Closest Towns: Castle Rock, WA or Toutle, WA
Water: Potable Water
Restroom: Yes during open hours
Passes: Per person site: Accepts annual/lifetime recreation passes or $8 day-use fee only. Children ages 15 and under have free admission.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters and Visitor Centers   See also:  West Side: State Highway 504

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



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Nature Viewing

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Outdoor Learning

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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.

Areas & Activities



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  Elevation : 
4255 - 4214


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