"MT ST HELENS: DESTRUCTION - RENEWAL" Top 5 Page for this destination Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument by mtncorg

The 1980 cataclysmic eruption of Mt St Helens destroyed countless trees, sweeping them down in northerly directions over 10 miles away from the mountain top leaving a mass of destruction that has to be seen to be believed. Almost 25 years later, the devastated areas remain, but life has also renewed. Hiking in the area over the last 15 years, it is amazing to see the changes as they slowly progress. Slowly, the forests are returning.

The eruption was explosive , you can watch movies of it in the Visitors Center on Johnston Ridge. The top 1000 feet blew away along with the inner core leaving behind a gargantuan horsehoed shape mountain with the opening pointing to the north. The symmetry of Mt St Helens had always been commented upon before the 1980 eruption. Perfect cone-shaped volcanoes are a sign of both youth - on a geological scale - and activity. The blast shaved off the symmetry and scoured mountainsides far off in the norhtern reaches. Southern slopes remain similar to what they were before with the exception of the Muddy River lahar on the southeast side.

Most casual visitors will spend half a day driving up to the Visitors Center on Johnston Ridge. Others, with more time, might make the long day tour over to the Windy Ridge viewpoint, passing a couple other grand viewpoints over Spirit Lake en route. Off the roads is where the Park's grandeur multiplies. The Mt Margaret Backcountry, norht of Spirit Lake is incredible. Wide open lahars and dramatic slot canyons are seen on west and east sides with pre-eruption symmetry still in evidence on the southern slopes.

NOTE that for 2005 the climbing season was cancelled because the mountain is a bit too active for the Forest Service. Presently, the USFS has decided the climb of the southside is open for business once more as the mountain has been deemed to be quiet enough once more. For the latest restrictions, closures and openings, check with the websites given in the tips.

The Loowit Trail, which goes around the mountain, was also closed from the South Fork of the Toutle - The Castle trail junction - to the Plains of Abraham, so basically the entire north side of the mountain was shut down. The Forest Service has trouble keeping the Loowit Trail open even when there is not a lot of volcanic activity due to erosion at creek crossings. The interesting area around Sheep Canyon on the southwest side of the mountain used to be easily accessed by road, but this has been washed out. You now have to use the Blue Lake trailhead and head north on the Toutle Trail #238 to reach this area in about three miles out. *

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Earth's Power on Display; Unique wilderness
  • Cons:Sunny weekends chaotic at Visitors Center; Climb permits hard to get
  • In a nutshell:Yin Yang on a Grand World Scale
  • Intro Updated Jul 31, 2006
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Reviews (22)

Comments (16)

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Dec 17, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    Walking high on the snow and looking at what the power of earth can do. . . . . WOW! I know only the sleeping volcanoes of Auvergne and a few Indonesian “awake” volcanoes; I must see this one, one day! Ice and fire! Well done, Mark

  • Greggor58's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    I drove by the turn off once on the Istate heading north from Portland to Vancouver .Your pages have given me a really good idea of what I missed.There's a "Plains of Abraham" up here too where the British fought the French in Quebec in 1759.Great page!

  • amandajayne81's Profile Photo
    Oct 27, 2009 at 12:55 AM

    Awesome page. I am somewhat confused as to 'how much' we will be able to do in late Oct 2010. Will it be too icy to drive? Will there be snow? Can we get to visitors centres at least and see some awesome views and short hikes?

  • travelfrosch's Profile Photo
    Jul 6, 2007 at 5:39 PM

    Excellent look at the "south side" and the blast zone. Feel free to update your tips on this page at any time! ;0) Cheers, Mark

  • travel-bugg's Profile Photo
    Aug 23, 2005 at 12:47 PM

    Lovely pictures. I loved hiking Mount St. Helen.. it's my favorite volcano! Thanks for sharing. Charly

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Dec 30, 2004 at 12:49 PM

    I was in California went Mt St Helen blew out and followed all that hour by hour. Interesting to see your pictures and how it is now !

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Oct 7, 2004 at 8:21 AM

    We’ve had ominous foreboding reports about Mount Saint Helens on the evening news lately. I imagine some of the places you show here are off limits right now.

  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2004 at 11:54 AM

    KABOOOMMM!!!!! Soon again!!!

  • starship's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2004 at 9:29 AM

    Have yet to put up a page from our visit this past June. But yours is so awesome that I think it would pale in comparison to yours. Excellent page--may have to be renewed soon is rumblings continue!

  • aramat's Profile Photo
    Aug 28, 2004 at 6:07 AM

    Excellent information, great pictures! Mount St Helens is a fascinating place.


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