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Johnston Ridge Observatory

Is this your business?
21500 Spirit Lake Highway, Toutle, WA 98649
+1 360-274-2140
Review Highlights
A geographer's delight

Always wanted to visit this site after grading countless case studies as a geography teacher (now... read more

Reviewed 2 days ago
Second time

We have enjoyed both our visits to this location. If there is a ranger program be sure to attend... read more

Reviewed 6 days ago
Wanda R
Greenfield, Wisconsin
Read all 401 reviews
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A small observatory poised dramatically on a cliff overlooking the debris left over from the famous 1980 volcano explosion.
  • Excellent79%
  • Very good17%
  • Average2%
  • Poor1%
  • Terrible1%
Travelers talk about
“ranger talks” (35 reviews)
“mt st” (36 reviews)
“visitor center” (48 reviews)
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All hours
Hours Today: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
21500 Spirit Lake Highway, Toutle, WA 98649
+1 360-274-2140
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Reviews (401)
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1 - 10 of 389 reviews

Reviewed 2 days ago

Always wanted to visit this site after grading countless case studies as a geography teacher (now retired) in the UK. Great view of the mountain itself and an understanding of the observatory and the role of David Johnston.

Thank YorksRick
Reviewed 6 days ago

We have enjoyed both our visits to this location. If there is a ranger program be sure to attend. You get a lot of facts on Mt. St. Helen's. There are plenty of trails to walk on around the observatory. If you have a National...More

Thank Wanda R
Reviewed 2 weeks ago

We had planned our trip to the Pacific northwest for months and knew there had been smoke and haze in the area. So, I found out online that you can check the webcam from the visitor's center and check the view. We changed our visit...More

Thank Zamigaos
Reviewed 2 weeks ago via mobile

Fantastic views of the 1980 collapse/eruption of the north side along with the regeneration and new lakes formed as a result of the eruption. The rangers do an excellent live program and have films of the event. A must see if you are in the...More

Thank Denise B
Reviewed 3 weeks ago

We have all seen the destruction caused by the eruption of Mt St Helens on TV an film. But to make the drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory from the lush forested slopes of Mt Rainier you get a sense of the enormity of what...More

Thank 1Feathers
Reviewed 3 weeks ago

The drive up to Johnston Ridge Observatory is stunning and mind-boggling to get a sense of what happened here in May 1980. The interpretive programs, films and exhibits at the observatory bring it all into sharp relief. What a fascinating piece of geologic history. This...More

Thank DStin0731
Reviewed 4 weeks ago

After coming from Mt. Rainier the drive was a dramatic contrast with the lack of thick forest and vegetation, but it was a lovely drive. There are no services for the long drive into the Observatory so be sure to gas up and take any...More

Thank Bobby R
Reviewed 4 weeks ago

Wow. Reading or seeing pics of Mt. St. Helens doesn't even touch being up close at the observatory. The Johnston Ridge Observatory really puts this all in perspective and is an absolute must IMO. It's just hard to even comprehend the 1980 eruption. I would...More

Thank travel_wm
Reviewed 4 weeks ago via mobile

This place is amazing. Literally one of a kind. Absolute must see. A few years ago the family went to Kennedy Space Center (I'm going somewhere with this) and they've got a couple exhibits where they show you a short movie and then pull back...More

Thank Patrick C
Reviewed September 15, 2017

Very insightful. All of the exhibits are worth taking the time to look at. Make sure you read the individual stories of the people caught in the eruption. Both videos are well done and do a good job of explaining why this wasn't just a...More

Thank mme8771
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Questions & Answers
Amber M
August 23, 2017|
AnswerShow all 6 answers
Response from Ganesh K | Reviewed this property |
The movie is every hour and not more than 15 minutes. You don't have to buy online and it is included in admission ticket of $8. The movie is ok, but good if you are interested in history with pictures and videos. When the... More
Morgan B
April 25, 2017|
Response from Rita J | Reviewed this property |
We went in September. It is closed November through mid May. It opens May 13th according to their website.
So can I get some clarification: Can one actually HIKE to the crater from the Observatory? I know there are many hikes around the area and we'll surely want to do one (and considering we'll be driving straight from PDX airport upon arrival at 10:15 am on a Friday, I realize we won't have a lot of time - which is why I picked the Johnston Ridge Observatory as our anchor destination (so to speak), from which to see Mt. St. Helens and hopefully get in a hike. But I got confused reading some of the posts...didn't realize one can hike to the crater from the Observatory so wanted confirmation on that (and would that require a permit? From everything I've read, one must get a permit to hike up the crater and only 100 are given out and they must be purchased online - but is this applicable from Johnston Observatory?) Also, wondering if anyone has been to the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center (further west) and whether I should give that a complete pass, in favor of driving directly to Johnston Ridge Observatory. Thanks for feedback.
September 9, 2016|
AnswerShow all 2 answers
Response from TerryCMT | Reviewed this property |
Hi. The only hiking route to the crater rim is from the south off Hwy 503, past Cougar and Ape Caves to Climber's Bivouac. And yes, you must have a permit, which is limited to 100 a day. There are three visitor centers on... More