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Johnston Ridge Observatory
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Small-Group Full-Day Tour of Mount St Helens...
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Toutle
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: A small observatory poised dramatically on a cliff overlooking the debris left over from the famous 1980 volcano explosion.
Reviewed 3 August 2014

I was in Seattle on a trip when this mountain blew. I am almost ashamed that I took this long to visit this place. If you go be prepared for breathtaking scenery on the way up. Make sure if possible that you make it when it is clear so you can get the full scene of the mountain and the Toutle River valley and see the impact of the eruption.

Leave plenty of time so you can see both the movies in the theater. Also take one or more of the guided tours with the Rangers.

A must see and well worth the drive. Go to the Johnson Ridge observatory first and make sure to read all the stories in the Center then drive down and stop at the other scenic stops so you can understand the full impact of what you are seeing.

On the way up or down stop at Patty's Place at Milepost 19 for a great meal. (see review).

1  Thank Trafcon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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266 - 270 of 410 reviews

Reviewed 3 August 2014

The visitor center is not worth the $8 a person fee. The videos were terrible. The free view point below is better site. Also the visitor center run by the paper company down the road closer to the beginning was better and had a more interesting video and better information.

Thank M H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 August 2014

The drive up is so beautiful, you see lots of signs showing planted in the year the trees were planted. You also see lots of ash prairie is the best way to explain it the higher you get. We didn't know it at the time but this was where the ash flow was at and how it ate through the area was visible. Then the closer you get to the actual observatory you see charred trees that was apparently from the actual blast. You could tell which way the blast occurred by the way the trees had been laid to rest from nature. The observatory does cost $8 for adults and is free for youth of 16 or younger, you will get a wrist band that you can use later for scrap booking. It was very informative, there are 2 movies one on the outside doors waiting to view the other one in a theater setting. We didn't watch this one however did watch the theater setting one. The movies are both 16 minutes long and the one in the theater setting shows the actual eruption from 1980 it is loud. After the movie is over the screen and curtains rise for you to have a magnificent view of the top of the mountain. However the day we were here God wouldn't corporate for us as it was cloudy and we didn't get to see the top. You can tell that if the clouds weren't there it would be awesome sight to see. You exit to the left and have a big tree trunk that represents one of the many 300 year old trees that were destroyed in the blast and it shows which way the blast occurred on the tree by the top where the bark was moved. You can listen to a ranger go over in more depth the day of the 1980 explosion, which was very informative. There is a seismograph that you can jump on the floor and see what your own earthquake looks like on the paper. There are restrooms and a gift shop inside. You can also take a hour and half hike with a ranger and get various views from this area including the top of the mountain. We did take the hike and it wasn't very strenuous just chilly since it was misting and windy that day. The views would be worth the hike of the mountain and were still worth the hike due to various other details that you can see such as the rocks left behind from the explosion and the flowers that allowed for the re growth. The ranger was very informative and you could tell they truly love sharing the history of this volcano. This was every bit worth the drive and cost to be able to see the mountain so close and learn so much about the volcano.

Thank AMR01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 July 2014

You cannot go wrong with a visit to the observatory. From the history of the mountain to the time lapse of watching nature come back after the eruption. The views from the observatory are second to none!!! The drive up is worth the trip.

Thank Greg C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 29 July 2014

2 different "movies" that give info about the eruption and about the geology. Ranger talks and tours. Great free kids junior ranger program (I had 2 eleven year olds who got a kick out of it). Best option (if you have stable footing) is to park at the overlook just a short distance prior to Johnston's Ridge and hike the trail over. It's amazing but be careful with little kids...some really significant drops. Beautiful wildflowers, wild strawberries and views you can't get anywhere else. Learned that my annual NW forest pass covers one adult entry at the visitor center....that's awesome, and kids 15 and under are free. Love this place!

1  Thank poettica
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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