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Mt. St. Helens
On March 8, 2005, Mt. St. Helens came to life again, sending a 36,000-foot plume of steam and ash into the air. Since then, the mountain has been in a state of dome-building activity. Severe flooding in November 2006 damaged many trails and roads in the area; not all had reopened at the time of this writing. Call for updates ( 360/449-7800) on Mt. St. Helens activity and closures.
It was once a premier camping destination, with a Mt. Fuji-like cone and pristine forest. But the May 18, 1980, eruption blew off its top and stripped its slopes of forest. The 8,365-foot-high mountain, formerly 9,665 feet high, is one of a string of volcanic Cascade Range peaks that runs from British Columbia's Mt. Garibaldi south to California's Mt. Lassen. The string includes such notable peaks as Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier to the north, Mt. Adams to the east, Mt. Hood in Oregon, and Mt. Shasta in California. Most people travel to Mt. St. Helens via the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (Highway 504), whose predecessor was destroyed in a matter of minutes in 1980. This highway has unparalleled views of the mountain and the Toutle River Valley.
The U.S. Forest Service operates the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at trailheads, visitor centers, and other forest facilities. The pass costs $5 per vehicle per day and can be purchased at visitor centers, Ape's Headquarters, and Cascade Peaks Restaurant and Gift Shop on Forest Road 99.
Climbing is limited to the south side of the mountain. Permits are required; the fee is $22 per person. On the east side of the mountain are two bare-bones visitor centers, Windy Ridge and Ape Cave. On the south side of the mountain there's a center at Lava Canyon. The two centers along Highway 504 on the forest's west side—Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center (at Silver Lake), and Johnston Ridge Observatory—are open daily in summer. Silver Lake is open from 9 to 6 in summer and 9 to 4 in winter; Johnston Ridge operates from 10 to 6 in summer and is closed from October until May.
Mt. St. Helens at a Glance
Elsewhere in Southwestern Washington
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