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“The place to go!” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Johnston Ridge Observatory

Johnston Ridge Observatory
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Small-Group Full-Day Tour of Mount St Helens Volcano from Seattle
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Toutle
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: A small observatory poised dramatically on a cliff overlooking the debris left over from the famous 1980 volcano explosion.
Newton, North Carolina
Level Contributor
57 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“The place to go!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 9, 2013

My wife and I had a few days in the area before a conference we were attending. We noticed that there were several visitors centers on the mountain. We chose to start at the Johnston Ridge Observatory and work our way down and we were not disappointed. It was the most informative and beautiful of all of them. From the Ranger presentations, the displays, and the movies we learned so much about the events leading up to the explosion, how nature operates, and what has happened on the mountain since. There are several trails that start at the observatory and they are breathtaking. Well worth the fee paid to be there! We would encourage everyone to start here and work your way back down the mountain as it makes the others much more enjoyable.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank PeterTammy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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340 reviews from our community

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Cincinnati, OH
Level Contributor
222 reviews
114 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 228 helpful votes
“Great View of St. Helens”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 8, 2013

The outside area adjacent to Johnston Ridge Observatory provides a great view of Mount St. Helens. There was also a short trail to get better views of the surrounding area. It was very interesting to see the lingering effects of devastation, and yet life is slowly coming back. The observatory itself was ok. The inside provided the same views of St. Helens (with protection from the wind/cold), restrooms, and only a limited number of exhibits. I am not sure how to describe the movie we watched, but it just seemed odd the way it kept using duplex footage (mirror image explosions?). The drive to and from the observatory provided great views of the area.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank _0mkq0_
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Whitefish, Montana
Level Contributor
90 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“A spectacular Reminder of the Power of Natural Forces!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 3, 2013

We took a detour on our return trip from the Oregon coast to spend time at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. First, I want to point out that the 50 mile drive from I-5 is a real eye opener. The closer you get to Mt. St. Helens the more spectacular and incredible the scenery. One climbs over 4000 feet during this trip and the destination is worth every minute. Important Note: While the road is a well engineered highway I would not recommend driving this road in bad weather. Also, to get the full impact of Mt. St. Helens do this on a sunny/partly sunny day. Driving 50 miles to be enveloped in nothing but clouds greatly diminishes the experience.
Once at the Observatory the power of what occurred well over 30 years ago is truly something to behold. While there are indeed many signs of recovery, the initial blast zone is still mostly utter devastation. If you have time take one of the trails and walk in and around these areas (stay on the trail). This is definitely a "bucket list" item for anyone interested in Nature or the power of volcanoes. The Observatory is on a site that was literally blown away during the eruption, so it is a wee bit of an eery feeling, knowing that where one is standing was completely destroyed by the power of the eruption.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank MontanaMike2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Langley City, Canada
Level Contributor
120 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 138 helpful votes
“Natural devastation and beauty”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 24, 2013

The first thing you need to do before planning your trip here is to check the weather. If it's not sunny and clear, it's not worth it. It's a tall mountain, and any clouds will probably obscure the peak. Another thing to keep in mind is that it's more than 3,000 feet above sea level, so you're likely to need a jacket or sweater if you're used to temperatures above 60 F / 15 C.

There are several viewpoints along the way with good photo opportunities, but Johnston Ridge is the closest you'll get to the volcano without hiking gear. Surprisingly, none of the stops have refreshments of any kind--not even vending machines--so bring food and drink with you. Johnston Ridge's website says they have a food cart during summer, but mid-September is still summer and we saw no such thing.

There is a fee of $8.00 to access Johnston Ridge. That means anything beyond the parking lot. Whether you want to see the film or not, you have to pay. Even just to get a picture at the railing.

The film's content is interesting, but the visuals are poorly produced. The special effects are beneath SyFy movie-of-the-week quality. But you might as well sit through it, because they do the guided tours right after each showing.

There's a long trail off to the east (about a mile of it is visible from the visitor center) where you can go and look at the smashed trees up close. We arrived too late in the day to think about going, but there were several people on the trail. It looks pretty level so it's not too challenging.

We got some great pictures here, so we're not sorry we paid the $8.00 and made the long drive up to the top. But with the drive up being more than an hour, we should have planned to come earlier in the day.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank tripleaardvark
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
56 reviews
33 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“It's a long road to get there”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 15, 2013

Start with a trip to the main visitor's center and then take the trip toe Johnson's Ridge. It's a long drive and there are a few places you can stop and get gas and snacks to eat. After a certain distance there are no gas or food places to stop at.

Once you get there you will have to pay a fee to go to the viewing spots (which are paid at the visitor's center there. Check out the visitor's center first and then step outside and see the mountain and how little has grown back since the 1980 eruptions. You can imagine what kind of force must have came from the mountain to level the place and eliminate a large chunk of the mountain side.

I was in secondary school when the eruption hit and finally was able to see the mountain that caused all the problems for weeks after it. It's just an amazing place.

Visited September 2013
Thank StickyGlue62
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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