Knowledge, Entertainment and Excitement!
The eruption of Mount St. Helens caused the largest landslide in recorded history, sweeping through the Toutle River Valley and removing 1,306 feet from the top of the volcano. The powerful lava flow, savage winds and deadly heat destroyed much of the previous landscape. What the mountain left behind is the history of a violent eruption that shook the surrounding region and left many with stories of that tumultuous day on May 18, 1980. Four world-class visitor centers tell the story of the mountain and the people living in the region surrounding it. Located along Spirit Lake Highway, the centers are nothing short of unforgettable and extraordinary. The awesome views from each of the centers speak for themselves, bringing you face to face with a monumental natural event.
Each visitor center tells a part of the tale, like a captivating book with four chapters: the mountain as it was before the blast at Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center; first-hand accounts from survivors who experienced the explosion at Johnston Ridge Observatory; the recovery of the mountain and the region at the Forest Learning Center; and its present state at the Silver Lake Visitor Center. Each center offers an unparalleled experience that brings visitors face-to-face with one of the most memorable natural phenomena of our era.
Download PDF Map All Visitor Centers
Mount St. Helens Visitor Center
5 miles from I-5
The Silver Lake 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.
Open: Open 7 days a week
9 am to 5 pm
Forest Learning Center
33.5 miles from I-5
Directly following the Mount St. Helens eruption, workers from the Weyerhaeuser timber company swarmed across the devastated land, hauling out enough salvaged logs to build 85,000 three-bedroom homes. The company did its part to rebuild the forest by hand-planting 18 million seedlings. Today, you can almost see a line between the trees that were farmed and the natural regeneration of plant-life at the mountain.
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.
Gift Shop/Restrooms/Outdoor Facilities
Open 7 days a week 10 am to 6 pm
Tel: 360.274.7750 - Gift Shop
Exhibits: Open 5 days a week
Friday through Tuesday
10 am to 4 pm
Tel: 360.414.3439 - Exhibits
Johnston Ridge Observatory
52 miles from I-5
Tucked into the side of Johnston’s Ridge and only 5 miles from the north side of the mountain, the Johnston Ridge Observatory transcends the meaning of world-class. Providing visitors the opportunity to come within a stone’s throw of the crater, the observatory is unparalleled. Walk out on the viewing deck or take a stroll along one of the trails and feel the energy of the mountain as it continues to puff steam into the sky.
Inside the 16,000-square-foot structure, it can be difficult for visitors to decide what to do first. One favorite is the fully-equipped theater, where visitors can watch a video about the eruption. Just as the mountain surprised the world with its blast, the movie does likewise as the show concludes and the screen rises to deliver a picture-perfect view of the mountain. For more detailed information, be sure to catch a formal talk or go on a guided walk led by one of the observatory’s volunteers. Take time to view the many exhibits and read through personal survival stories from that fateful day in 1980.
Open: 7 days a week
10 am to 6 pm
The Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center
43.3 miles from I-5
The Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center is a collaborative effort of the Mount St. Helens Institute and the U.S. Forest Service, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Our mission is to connect people with nature through science, art and adventure recreation. Our facilities and programs are designed to extend the quality and duration of educational experiences both onsite at the volcano and through engaging online experiences.
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