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Mt. St. Helen's - The Back Way (FR 25/99)?

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The last day of a 2-week trip to OR/WA coast & nat'l parks, we will be leaving Rainier (Ashford, WA) and driving back to the Portland airport for our flight home the next day. We plan to spend the day driving through Mt. St. Helen's NM. We have two route options: 1) west to I-5 and then 504 to Johnston Ridge or 2) to Randle, then down FR 25 to 99, then back out to 25 and around the south side of the monument on 503. Since the day in question is July 30, I assume FR 25 will be open.

It looks like the east route would be somewhat shorter but not a lot. Either way will involve backtracking, either on 99 or 504. Obviously this will be more of a "drive by" than a visit, no time for anything other than a few brief walks, no matter which way we do it. I lean toward the 25/99/503 route since it's somewhat off the beaten track, but since we have never been there, I don't know if missing Johnston Ridge Observatory and the monument VCs is something we'd end up sorry about. Not sure how scenic FR 25 is (no little scenic route dots on my AAA map) nor how long it would take to drive 99 in and out (plus numerous stops). And I'm not finding a lot of information on doing it that way, only info about 504.

Does anyone who has spent some time at Mt. St. Helen's and driven 99, 503 and 504 have any comments/suggestions?

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