Mount St. Helens
1. Mount St. Helens
Unlike the lengthy eruptions of volcanoes Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland and Kilauea in Hawaii, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens did most of its catastrophic damage in only a few minutes. Fifty-seven people were killed when the eruption triggered the largest landslide in recorded history, and the entire north face of the mountain collapsed, spewing ashes across a dozen states. More than 40 years later, the area inside the blast zone is still just beginning to show signs of new life.
For families, the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of State Highway 504 in the heart of the blast zone is the best way to see Mount St. Helens. Displays, films and ranger talks at the observatory tell the biological, geological and human story of the Mount St. Helens eruption. There are hiking opportunities, a food cart and a gift shop.
The observatory is typically open for the summer season and is scheduled to open in mid-May 2023. The plaza outside the observatory is open and accessible, and offers a full view of the blast zone. Keep in mind that it's over an hour's drive from Interstate 5 (exit at the town of Castle Rock) to reach the observatory. Leave pets at home. Editor's note: As of June 12, 2023, the observatory is unreachable due to a landslide that has blocked both lanes of traffic on State Route 504. Check the website for updates and the current status.
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