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Johnston Ridge Observatory

Closed Now: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Open today: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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  • Excellent79%
  • Very good17%
  • Average2%
  • Poor1%
  • Terrible1%
Travelers talk about
“mt st”(42 reviews)
“visitor center”(50 reviews)
“ranger talk”(21 reviews)
A small observatory poised dramatically on a cliff overlooking the debris left over from the famous 1980 volcano explosion.
Closed Now
Hours Today: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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21500 Spirit Lake Highway, Toutle, WA 98649
+1 360-274-2140
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Reviews (451)
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All reviews mt st visitor center ranger talk food truck in the parking lot active volcano volcanic eruption visitors centers short movie national park pass hiking trails great view of mt mother nature gift shop worth the trip clean restrooms spirit lake castle rock
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1 - 10 of 437 reviews
Reviewed November 2, 2018

We spent quite a while here, listening to an interesting talk by one of the Rangers and reading the survival stories. The view from the observatory is amazing.

Date of experience: October 2018
Thank Mamachoco
Reviewed October 24, 2018

Incredible views right opposite the crater. Lots of good information boards. Inside there was a small shop, a model, some info boards and a short informational movie (nothing you can't see on youtube). The ranger talk outside was really interesting and informative (but anyone could...More

Date of experience: October 2018
Thank Sue R
Reviewed October 22, 2018 via mobile

Although I have been visiting Washington State since 1980 when the great mountain erupted, this was my first trip dedicated to exploring Mount St. Helens. The drive to Johnston Ridge is scenic and educational. There are several places to stop along the way for recreational...More

Date of experience: October 2018
Thank LisaB595
Reviewed October 17, 2018

The observatory is small, but well worth a day visit. The views are spectacular, and the displays are very interesting. My wife and I were particularly impressed by the stories of the survivors of the 1980 eruption. A large photograph of the mountain which was...More

Date of experience: October 2018
Thank MidwestTraveller89
Reviewed October 4, 2018

This place has a really good film about the re-population of the Mt St Helens area after the eruption of Mt St Helens.

Date of experience: August 2018
Thank Jan C
Reviewed October 2, 2018

This place really emphasizes nature's immense power and it's ability to recreate itself so quickly. Mt. St. Helens is not the most beautiful mountain to look at, but this observatory really helps a visitor find the inner beauty. Hikes galore, no need to get a...More

Date of experience: August 2018
Thank TyGuy101
Reviewed October 2, 2018 via mobile

Pressed for time, we nearly passed this up. After all, desolate-looking Mount St. Helens can be viewed multiple places along the route. But don’t be tempted to move on without experiencing nature’s resiliency up close. The engrossing video ends with the screen rising to reveal...More

Date of experience: September 2018
1  Thank denisedL1796YV
Reviewed October 1, 2018 via mobile

Quite breezy on the day we arrived so our plan of hiking the trail close to the observatory was cut short, but we’ll definitely be back! Beautiful! So awesome to see the growth since the eruption; i was 13 then!

Date of experience: September 2018
Thank Terri B
Reviewed September 30, 2018 via mobile

Wonderful for an up close look at the volcanic crater. The visitors center is huge and has much to offer. We watched a short film that was very informative about the mountains history and aftermath of the eruptions. No regrets making the drive through such...More

Date of experience: September 2018
Thank Global103146
Reviewed September 28, 2018

Instead of telling you how great everything is, which it is, I will use this space to provide you with a few tips to help you navigate your trip to the Observatory: Bring your own food or stop at a restaurant on the way there...More

Date of experience: September 2018
Thank Jim G
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Questions & Answers
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Ben D
August 9, 2018|
AnswerShow all 7 answers
Response from htsteacher | Reviewed this property |
Not really sure. We bought our pass inside the observatory and we were there in the afternoon.
March 24, 2018|
AnswerShow all 2 answers
Response from kumtux | Reviewed this property |
The road to the observatory is generally open from May through October depending on the snow pack. Since Memorial Day is the very end of May, the road should be open. I imagine that the Observatory will be open for the... More
annette w
January 17, 2018|
AnswerShow all 6 answers
Response from PatB-Sonoma | Reviewed this property |
The campground accepts RV's up to 28' long, so your 22' will have no problem.
Travel Forum Posts
Harris, Minnesota
Mount St. Helens Visit from the West or the South (14 Replies)
We are going to be driving from Portland to Seattle and have 2 days to explore both St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. I am trying to decide which route would be better. 1. North to Castle Rock and then to Johnston Ridge Observatory Then overnight in Morton. 2. Northeast to Cougar and Ape Caves with a stay in Packwood. Eitherway, we want to end up exploring Paradise in Mt Rainier park the next day. Any input would be wonderful! Thanks
January 23, 2014|
Response fromCharles B|
Actually more information is needed. Your second choice is closed in the winter, so that only leaves the possibility of your first choice, depending on weather and road conditions. When are you going? Also, you ask which route will be "better". Better for what? Thanks. Chuck.
Boston, MA
Late August Itinerary w/ 11,15 yr olds - Seattle + (9 Replies)
My husband and our sons ages 11 and 15 are headed to Seattle in late August. We would like to do some hiking/ outdoors stuff/ see interesting and different stuff (Mt St Helens, maybe Ballard Locks (salmon), e.g.), but not run at such a pace that we are run ragged (a stop for an evening of bowling, e.g. can be good). Day 1 - Arrive SEATAC from Boston at 10:30 (but after a lot of travel) Day 10 - Return first thing in am to Boston We rejected our initial "see everything" itinerary as...More
August 15, 2011|
Response fromoregonpoppa|
If you arrive in SeaTac at 10:30, figure you'll get your rental car and be on your way about 11:15-11:30 (unless you arrive early and get your luggage quickly). It's about 2 hours to Castle Rock (4 hours round trip) and you need to allow 3-4 hours for the drive to Johnston Ridge Observatory and at least one other visitor center. Of course, you'll want to allow time for eating also. Eight hours driving AFTER a cross country flight. Uh, Uh...don't do it. It would also just be your luck to...More
Wollongong, Australia
Seattle to Mt St Helens (9 Replies)
We're planning a Washington trip for 2015 and would like confirmation of whether it's advisable to do Downtown Seattle to Mt St Helens (Johnston Ridge Observatory) in a day. It looks like the road up to the Observatory is quite slow and it looks like there are a number of interesting stops we can make along the way but at the same time we don't want to be rushed too much. We'd probably look at getting away from Seattle early (by 9.00 am). We're looking at staying the night in a B & B in...More
June 26, 2014|
Response fromdavidgmg|
its almost exactly 100 miles to the exit and usually takes about 2 hrs. Once on the road to MSH there are several visitors centers to visit. Its about 43 miles or so to Johnston Ridge and the movie there is incredible. I do this a few times each yr and while it could be a very long day trip since your only 45 miles or so from Portland, why not at least visit the Columbia River gorge? Thats very nice and there is a back way into rainier which would make this a much more enjoyable trip than a...More