Things to do in Cowlitz County

Visitor Centers

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Forest Learning Center
17000 Spirit Lake Hwy
Toutle, WA 98649

Our Forest Learning Center is located just inside the blast zone on the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway in Washington State. It tells the story of Mount St. Helens
and the remarkable recovery of forests, fish and wildlife following the eruption. The center is a partnership of Weyerhaeuser, Washington State Department of Transportation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Built by Weyerhaeuser Company, the Forest Learning Center tells the story of the rebirth of the forest. Walk through the forest, hearing the sounds of the birds and animals on the mountain prior to May 18, 1980. Enter the “eruption chamber” to view a video of what the forest looked like immediately after the eruption. Hear a first-hand report from a local newscaster who barely escaped.

The second half of the center depicts the regeneration of the forests surrounding Mount St. Helens. Breathtaking photographs and life-size models of loggers working in the blast zone bring the experience to life. The Forest Learning Center tells the story from nature’s perspective and gives a hands-on approach to learning in the Kids Room where families can touch lava rocks, learn about the animals of the Pacific Northwest, and discover how trees grow.

Location: 33.5 miles from I-5

Directions:
From Interstate 5 in Western Washington, take Exit 49 and continue east on Highway 504 to Milepost 33. The forest learning center is located at 17000 Spirit Lake Highway, Toutle, WA. Large groups are asked to make reservations at least two weeks in advance. All visitors: please watch for wildlife on roadways.

Exhibits: Open 5 days a week: Friday through Tuesday 10 am to 4 pm – Until September 10th
Gift Shop: Open 7 days a week 10 am to 5 pm – Until October 31

360.414.3439 – Exhibits
360.274.7750 – Gift Shop/Restrooms/Outdoor Facilities
Johnston Ridge Observatory
24000 Spirit lake Hwy
Toutle, WA 98649

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 Mount St. Helens Institute).

Hours Open: Open 7 days a week, 10 am to 6 pm – until October 29th.
Johnston Ridge Observatory will Re-Open May 2018.

360.274.2140
Mt St Helens Visitor Center
3029 Spirit Lake Hwy, Castle Rock, WA 98611

Mt St Helens Visitor Center is a world-class facility located on the western shore of Silver Lake. With its high ceilings and massive windows, the outdoors becomes a part of the architecture. Your senses will come alive as you enjoy the interactive exhibits, a step-in model of the volcano and theater programs that are offered twice an hour. Outside, a mile-long trail takes you into marshy plains surrounding Silver Lake where you can see waterfowl and a picture-perfect view of the mountain.

Make sure to take in one of the comprehensive presentations on the historical and cultural significance of the area. View exhibits showing the chronology of events leading up to the eruption and see the working seismograph. On your trip to Mount St. Helens, Silver Lake Visitor Center is the closest to I-5.

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center opened its doors to the public a few years after the monumental eruption of Mount St. Helens. Functioning as a gateway to the mountain, over 30 miles away, our goal is to educate visitors on the historical significance of the landscape before and during the eruption. We also focus on the resulting impact on nearby ecosystems. Our vantage point offers a view of the Western slope of the mountain, visible from both our center and walking trail.

This unique building features expansive windows providing a glimpse of towering second-growth forest all around. A high archway and elaborately carved wooden columns contribute to the feeling of magnificence. Inside, visitors can enjoy a variety of interpretive displays that include comprehensive information on local history, geology, and re-growth and recovery of the land in the years immediately after the eruption.

Displays include:

Large, step-in model of the volcano
Life-size mannequins
functioning seismograph and live feed of current Mount St. Helens volcano seismicity
Chronological timeline of events leading up to the volcanic blast on May 18, 1980
Theater program offered twice an hour; at :05 and :35 after.

Outdoors, visitors can explore Silver Lake along the 0.6 mile-long trail, including boardwalks over the wetland where a variety of aquatic plants and migratory waterfowl can be viewed at different times of the year.

Visitor Center Hours:
March 1 – May 15, open daily 9:00 – 4:00
May 16 – September 15, open daily 9:00 – 5:00
September 16 – October 31, open daily 9:00 – 4:00
November 1 – February 28, open Thursday through Monday 9:00 – 4:00

360.274.0962
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