Posts tagged: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

By , August 10, 2010 6:05 pm

Our final destination in the Rainier area was Mount St. Helens.  We drove in from Randle, WA on 131, then turned off at Forest Road 26.  If you’re in the area on a motorcycle, this is a road you shouldn’t miss. Winking smile  The pavement isn’t in the best of shape, so use caution, but the twisties are awesome! Smile


There’s not much in the way of scenery or exhibits or anything on the way to Mt. St. Helens, but it’s fairly impressive in it’s own way.

IMG_2583Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, which drastically changed not only the mountain (volcano), but the area around it as well.  Unfortunately, 57 people were also killed in the eruption.  The eruption blew sideways, not up.  This knocked about 1200 feet off height of St. Helens and left a mile wide U-shaped crater in it’s place.  It’s estimated that the blast cloud was travelling horizontally at approximately 300 miles per hour.  Needless to say, this left it’s mark. 

The park area is mostly dead trees now.  Most are fallen trunks, but a few dead trunks remain standing.  It’s not as scenic as most other parks, due to this.  There are some overlooks and a ranger station that’s worth checking out. 

At the end of the road, we came to Windy Ridge parking area.  We managed to arrive just a couple of minutes after a ranger’s presentation started, so we settled in and caught the rest of it.  If you time it right, it’s worth listening to the talks here.

IMG_2552The other point of interest here (other than the volcano itself) is the hike up to Windy Ridge.  I warn you, this is not for the faint of heart.  From the parking area, it looks like wood steps up to the ridge (which I estimated to be at least a 300 ft climb).  Unfortunately, once we started, we found that it was actually just a wood frame for steps, with each step filled in with pumice stones.  This did not make for an easy climb. Confused smile

At the top is a viewing platform that shows about as much of St. Helens that you’ll see without doing a serious hike.  It’s also a good place to see the blast field and Spirit Lake.  The lake is now about a third filled with dead floating logs.  The other two thirds have gotten waterlogged and sunk over the years.  It’s kind of eerie.  There are some interesting flowers and some nice areas of growth, but it’s mostly fairly barren land.


IMG_2599On the way back out, we stopped at Iron Creek Falls.  This is technically outside the national monument and is part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  It’s definitely worth checking out!  From the parking area, it’s a short hike down a fairly well maintained trail to the falls.  We were able to cross the stream below the falls, due to some piled up log debris.  I imagine this can change radically depending on rain and snow melt.

This is probably one of the most pleasant areas we’ve found with falls in our trip.  The falls are impressive, but not so huge that you can’t get to them.  You could easily swim here if it were warm enough (I doubt it would ever be “comfortable”).  The fall shoots out almost vertically before falling in an unobstructed pool.  The entire area is incredibly green and nicely shaded.  It would be a good place to chill out and have a picnic. Smile


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