Pull off the highway at the center to attend ranger talks, documentary films and naturalist-led hikes to views of the mountain’s blown-out north side.
The museum’s interpretive exhibits bring to life the mountain’s geology and history; they offer tours through time, from prehistory to the earth shattering May 18, 1980 explosion and the area’s recent recovery. Kids and grownup kids will enjoy the large, step-in model of the volcano, and geology geeks will be mesmerized by the functioning seismograph and live feed of Mount St. Helens’ volcano seismicity. Harrowing tales of last-minute evacuations before the eruption are not easily forgotten.
From there, many road trippers venture 30 miles east on the Spirit Lake Highway to Mount St. Helens itself. The U.S. Forest Service’s Johnston’s Observatory and the iconic Harry’s Ridge and Spirit Lake trails offer close-up looks at the volcano and the large bulge growing in its crater.
After a solid day of touring, relaxation awaits you on Seaquest’s 475 forested acres. Located just off I-5 and connected to the visitor center by a pedestrian tunnel under the highway, Seaquest State Park is convenient and picturesque.
A stroll or leisurely bike ride down the park’s sun-dappled trails will soothe the soul after a day on the windswept slopes of St. Helens. An evening wander on the .6-mile Silver Lake trail reveals open wetlands, migratory birds and dramatic reflections on the glassy lake.
A public boat ramp is available 5 miles east of the park, and Silver Lake is a fishing destination for largemouth bass, rainbow trout, Coho salmon and yellow perch.
Kids looking to burn off that last ounce of steam will find entertainment at the children’s playground, with its unique human-made sand dune. Horseshoe or volleyball games are also popular pastimes at Seaquest.
The end of the day brings classic camping at Seaquest, where the secondary old-growth canopy provides a calming green backdrop for picnics and marshmallow roasts. Families and friend groups, consider treating yourselves to a night in one of the park’s five furnished, heated yurts. All tucked away in the forest, you are sure to get a good night’s sleep after a busy day on and around Mount St. Helens.