Johnston Ridge Observatory

Location: Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens, Washington

Permit: Johnston Ridge Observatory entry fee ($8). One free entry with NW Forest Pass

Option 1 to viewpoint
Level: easy Beginner Level: doable
Round trip/Gain: 3.8 miles/400ft
Type: round trip

Option 2 to Harry’s Ridge
Level:
moderate
Round trip/Gain: 8 miles/1000ft
Type: round trip

That first view of Mount St. Helens when driving up 804-E kills me. I love this mountain so much! And so does everyone else, because I thought I was pulling one over showing up early morning midweek on a hot day, but no, the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory was swarmed. I dreaded walking up to the Observatory to get my armband (you have to wear your proof of entry and mine was free because I have a NW Forest Pass!), but as soon as I got on trail, the crowds thinned within the first few tenths of a mile. Still, trails like this are always the ones where you see people with no water, bad footwear, talking on their phones, etc. It can be stressful!

Every single moment of this trail, start to finish, yields a spectacular view. You can go as short or as far as you want and be totally bowled over. Also, there is NO shade on this trail aside from a tiny patch of baby alders at one point.

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That purple was much more vast than it appears here. It’s all lupine!
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Patchwork drama everywhere you look
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Sign indicating the turn for Harry’s Ridge.
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Love that little backbone squiggle of trail.
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Mount Adams and Spirit Lake. All of that “white water” is actually bleached logs, thousands of them, in the water from the 1980 blast.
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Mount Adams > Spirit Lake > the faintest pinprick of Mt. Hood > Mount St. Helens
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View from Harry’s Ridge. I want to be that little green lake.

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