Mount St. Helen's with Kids
Beautiful valleys, stunning mountains, lush forests, amazing museums ( super cool playgrounds!), Mount St. Helen's has it all. Read below to check out the PNW Kids full travel guide to Mount St. Helen's.
This travel guide will focus on the Castle Rock to the Johnston Ridge Observatory area, along the 503 Spirit Lake Highway. There are several different ways to access different parts of Mount St. Helen's which we will cover in other posts . This area is a great starting place if you're visiting Mount St. Helen's for the first time with kids because of the great museums/visitor centers and other areas.
1. First stop, Mt St Helen's Visitor Center/ Seaquest State Park/Silver Lake.
Three spots to check out for the price of one! This was the first area we stopped along on the Spirit Highway. The Mount St. Helen's Visitor Center is right next to the beautiful Silver Lake. We went into the visitor's center to grab a map and find out more information on the area. There was a little museum section in the center but it required a paid entry and we decided to save our money for the Johnston Ridge Observatory instead. It looked interesting with loads of history about the mountain and something that was probably worth the money if you had some time to spare. However, we were traveling with three kids 6 and under and therefore wanted to keep moving.
We did walk around Silver Lake a bit, which had a nice level path and was perfect for kids ( a short clip of the trail below).
2. Scenic Overlooks
You will notice tons of beautiful overlooks throughout the entire journey along the Spirit Highway. We stopped at almost every single one for a new and unique perspective of the valley. I highly recommend checking these areas out and reading the interpretive signs. My kids had a blast at each of these stops and it was great to stretch their little legs out. We never traveled too far without the opportunity to get out and walk around at one of these viewing areas.
3. Mt St Helens Forest Learning Center
Totally worth the stop! The Forest Learning Center has a fantastic playground ( that my kids ADORED) and a beautiful museum with tons of excellent exhibits on the mountain with a focus on the forestry aspect of the mountain. The area also has several excellent viewpoints which you can view the north fork of the Toutle River, which is just a gorgeous sight to behold.
4. Hummocks Trail #229
One of the best kid friendly hikes in the region. This trail is approximately 2 and 1/2 miles and is relatively flat with some of the coolest landscape around. There are very strange and interesting mounds/hills dotting the area which were left over from the eruption (which are really fun for kids to experience). One thing of note, dogs are not allowed on this trail because the habitat is still recovering. More information on the trail is here
5. Johnston Ridge Observatory
The crown jewel ( in our opinion) of Spirit Highway is the Johnston Ridge Observatory which sits a mere 5 miles from Mt. St. Helen's base. This observatory has loads of excellent trails in addition to an amazing visitors center/museum. It does cost $8.00 for each adult but was well worth the expense in our opinion. They also show two different documentaries in a theater that are great for older kids who can sit through something like that ( mine were not able to!). There was a snack cart there ( yes!) and amazing docent led walks around the area. Overall this place was so awesome! We can't wait to go back.
So the bad news ( as you can tell by the above pictures) was that the day was totally cloudy the ENTIRE time. Which meant we were not able to see the mountain in her full glory. However, despite the overcast nature of our adventure, the trip was so worth it. The kids had so much fun on this little "road trip", stopping at all the various centers, scenic overlooks, natural areas and hiking trails. We spent a full day exploring the landscape and area and it made us even more excited to go back on a sunnier day.
Have you explored Mount St. Helen's with kids? If so, let us know if the comments below! Do you have anything else you would recommend to families looking to visit the area?
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