Mount St. Helens West: State Highway 504

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Johnston Ridge Observatory with volcano in backround.

One of the main roads into Mount St. Helens, State Route 504 provides spectacular views of the landscape, including the crater, blast zone, and Toutle River Valley. At the end of the road is Johnston Ridge Observatory, a popular visitor center that is open daily mid-May through October. Seven miles west of Johnston Ridge Observatory is the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, where groups participate in educational programming and visitors may get information on winter weekends, 10 am to 4 pm, starting in December.

As you drive up 504, consider stopping at one of the highway viewpoints: Elk Rock Viewpoint, Castle Lake Viewpoint, and Loowit Viewpoint.  These pull-outs offer benches, trails, gorgeous views, and are open most of the year.

Route 504 also provides visitors with access to a number of trails, such as the Hummocks Trail where you walk alongside pieces of the mountain, or begin your backpacking trip to spot elk and mountain goats in the majestic Mount Margaret Backcountry. A pleasant summer stop is at Coldwater Lake, with its accessible boardwalk stroll, picnic area, and boat launch.  Route 504 to Coldwater Lake is open through the winter. In summer, food service is available at Johnston Ridge Observatory while many options for food, lodging, and gas can be found along 504 west of Mount St. Helens.

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At a Glance

Current Conditions:
  • Highway 504 is open to Johnston Ridge.
  • Elk Rock and Castle Lake Viewpoint parking lots open.
  • Coldwater Lake and Hummocks Trail parking lots open.
  • Johnston Ridge Observatory temporarily closed.
  • Coldwater Science and Learning Center closed.
Operational Hours: Access on Highway 504 inside the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (east of Elk Rock Viewpoint) is limited to daylight hours.  
  • Please leave your pet at home. Pets are allowed only in the parking lots and pet relief areas at Johnston Ridge Observatory and Coldwater Lake, near the Lakes Trail. There is no shade to park in, so vehicles get incredibly hot. 
  • A few trails allow dogs, but they must remain on the trail and on leash at all times. See Mount St. Helens Map. Please clean up after your pet.
Closest Towns: Toutle, WA, Castle Rock, WA
Restroom: Coldwater Lake parking lot
Passes: Coldwater Science and Learning Center and Forest Service recreation sites on Highway 504 are free. Admission to Johnston Ridge Observatory is $8 per adult, 16 and older. America the Beautiful Passes are accepted.
Information Center:

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