A childhood dream come true, Mt. St. Helens has all the fun adventures!
When I was younger I read fiction books about Sasquach and how he lived in lava tubes under Mt. St. Helens. While I’ve never been a believer of the Quatch, I still appreciate legendary tales and love to visit places by which they were inspired.
That includes Mt. St. Helens. 🙂
We left early on our weekend trek to the volcanic area. We were going to spend the first day hiking trails and the second day going to the visitor centers and viewpoints.
First we hiked Lava Canyon. It was such a pretty trail, but I got vertigo on the way back and did not enjoy being so close to the edge of the canyon with a river below us. However, if heights aren’t a bother, I definitely recommend this trail.
The best part of the trail was the suspension bridge! We really enjoyed walking across and seeing the blue rushing water below us. I would definitely go back to this trail, even if just for the bridge!
Note: The bridge is before the trail, so it is very possible to just walk to the bridge, cross it, then walk back. That stretch is just about a mile long. So very doable. We even saw people who had small children doing that section of the trail.
Our second adventure of the day was the Lava Tunnels! We loved this part of the trip. It was so cool to traverse the smooth stone tunnels for a mile (!) underground. It was pitch dark, slippery, and so much fun.
Note: Adventurers will definitely need a head-lamp for this trail. While a flashlight works, a head lamp is better for hands-free light. There are walls to climb over and large rocks that require hands for mild climbing. (Ours are from REI and I will try to do a post on that at the end of this year.)
That night we camped in the National Forest grounds. For camping in these public lands, there aren’t any actual campsites. As long as you camp within 100ft of a road or body of water then camping is allowed. We found this spot pretty luckily as it was Labor Day Weekend.
REMEMBER: Please pack out what you carry in! There were actual trash bags filled with trash thrown just beyond a earth mound way too close to camp. This encourages animals to come to camping areas and eat food they are not supposed to eat. In order to not only keep the area clear for future campers, but also for the wellbeing of the animals, please adhere to backpacking rules.
On our second day, we got to see Mt. St. Helens in all of her glory by going to the visitor center!
There are actually 3 visitor centers for the volcano. The first one is pretty small and has a fee, even for seasonal pass holders. For this reason, we decided to skip this center. We already pay for the yearly pass, so paying again seemed redundant at the very least. The second, is privately owned and put on by a local lumber company. It was very informative as it presents the side of why the company decided to replant trees rather than wait for nature to take its course. The third one is located on a ridge close to the opening of the volcano where the main heat blast blew. This one is covered by the seasonal pass and my favorite out of the three because of the view, the video presentation, and the general information given. I also liked getting to be more up close and personal with the sand-blasted landscape. It was very surreal and interesting.
We had a great time exploring Southern Washington and seeing a place we had only read about. We definitely recommend it!