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 Mount St. Helens Institute).
Toutle, WA 98649
Mile Marker 52
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.
Large, step-in model of the volcano
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.
Check out Washington State Parks Virtual Tours
Castle Rock, WA 98611
Mile Marker 5
Admission is always FREE!
Plan a 60-90 minute visit to the Forest Learning Center at Mount St. Helens.
The Forest Learning Center showcases remarkable volcano and forestry exhibits (updated in 2020!), a new playground, picnic tables, a gift shop, wildlife viewing and rest area facilities. It is located inside the blast zone on the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, 19 miles before Johnston Ridge Observatory.
Experience the story of Mount St. Helens and the recovery of forests, fish and wildlife following the eruption. 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 an astounding video of what the forest looked like immediately after the eruption. Hear a first-hand report from a local newscaster who barely escaped. 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 Discovery Room where families can touch lava rocks, learn about the animals of the Pacific Northwest, and discover how trees grow.
Groups larger than 25 people are kindly asked to make reservations at least two weeks in advance by calling the Exhibit Reservation Message Number below. School field trip information is available on the website link.
The Forest Learning Center is a partnership of Weyerhaeuser, Washington State Department of Transportation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Location: 33.5 miles from I-5, approximately a 40 minute drive east of Castle Rock, Washington.
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. Please watch for wildlife on roadways.
Gift Shop – Open Daily 10 am to 4 pm
Exhibits – Temporarily Closed
Exhibit Reservation Message Number 360.414.3439
(Please leave a voicemail for groups larger than 25 people;
calls will be returned within 1-2 business days during regular operating season)
Toutle, WA 98649
Mile Marker 33