How to See Mount St. Helens in 1 Day

Written By Sammi  |  USA  |  0 Comments

Mount St. Helens in Washington is one of the iconic symbols of the state. Its eruption on May 18, 1980 is written down in the history as the most catastrophic modern day volcanic eruption! Now the entire site including the blast zone has been transformed into a monument with visitor centers, hiking trails, viewpoints and opportunities for boating, camping, horseback riding and more.

If you have one day to visit Mount St. Helens, here is how to road trip to see the volcano. At the bottom of this post is a map marked with the points of interest mentioned in this post.

Pro tips: The road is fully paved and on a major highway. Any type of car will be fine for this drive. Personal tip: Bring food, snacks and drinks. There aren’t many facilities or services like restaurants and supermarkets, so bring everything.

Mount St. Helens in Washington

The following points of interests are on the west side of the site. It would take many days to explore the entire area so for just one day to Mount St. Helens, this is a fantastic way to sightsee and enjoy the volcano.

mount St Helens

You can follow along State Route 504 to enjoy a scenic drive and stop at the visitor centers along the way for great photo opportunities, hiking trails and to learn more about the volcano.

The West Side Attractions

Seaquest/Silver Lake Visitor Center

First visitor center off I-5 at mile post 5 on SR 504. $5 entrance fee to the exhibit, easy 1 mile hike.

Mount St Helens

View from the trails of the visitor center

Mt St Helens

Silverlake Visitor Center Trails

This center is one of the original ones built after the eruption on 3000 acres of marsh on Silver Lake. There’s an exhibition and display where visitors can learn more about the eruption and the history of the volcano along with a mini gift shop. The easy 1 mile walk offers picturesque views of the volcano and lake.

Edge of the Blast Zone

Western edge of blast zone, 14.8 miles from the crater. There is a viewpoint before the bridge.

Mt St Helens Blast Zone bridge

View from the Edge of the Blast Zone Bridge

There is a pull over viewpoint spot on the left hand side. There are a couple of signs where you can learn more about the blast zone and see what it used to look like.

Castle Lake Viewpoint

West of Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, at Castle Lake, North Fork Toutle River.

Mt St Helens

View from Castle Lake Viewpoint

In the valley, you can see Castle Lake, the river and notice the slightly barren landscape. Trees have started popping back up but are still in low abundance.

Hummocks Trail

2.3 mile loop, follows along the North Fork Toutle River, goes to Coldwater Lake.

Mt ST Helens

Hummocks Trail

This hike is fairly easy for both adults and kids. It used to be an old growth forest but after the eruption, it became a land of ash and rock. It gives you a great idea of the destruction the eruption left and has wonderful views when you reach the viewpoint.

You don’t have to walk the entire loop, you can walk just a little bit like 10 minutes and then turn around and go back.

Coldwater Lake Recreation Area

Fishing and boating allowed. There’s a nice area for picnics, leisurely walks and a dock for boat launch. Has bathrooms.

Mount ST helens

Coldwater Lake

I enjoyed stopping here as there weren’t many people and you can walk down to the water. Very picturesque!

From here, you can continue up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory if you wish. At the observatory, you can pay the visitor center fee to see more interactive exhibits. There are also many hiking trails that start from the observatory if you plan to do any of the hikes.

Other 1 Day Options

This is an excellent way to see Mount St Helens up close and learn about the volcano in one day on your own.

In case you are interested in an actual hike, we absolutely loved Harry’s Ridge. This is a intermediate hike ~12 miles roundtrip with spectacular views of the lakes, Mount St Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. If you go in June, you will see the beautiful wildflowers and a snowy peak.

Map of Points of Interests

Click this link to see where the places I mentioned in this post are, so you can easily follow along this drive! Something important to note is that there is no cell service once you enter the Mt St Helens scenic area so download these maps on Google Maps to use offline.