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Family Road Trip to Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument

We decided to pack up the family and take a road trip and combine in with it a picnic. We picked Mount St Helens Volcanic National Monument which is located in Southern Washington, about 50 miles north of Portland and for those in the Seattle area its about 120 miles south.

Valley filled from St. Helens Lahar.

Valley filled from St. Helens Lahar.

We have many national parks and monuments along the west coast that every family needs to at some time visit them all. So we are starting with one that is literally down the road. It’s visible from the city on a nice day and anyone living here knowing its volcanic history, makes it something that always keeps peoples aware of it.

We started in the morning and drove up through the Castle rock exit off of I-5. There are 2 other ways to view the mountain, which is from the north and southwest. Our final destination was Johnston Point which has an observatory that looks directly into the heart of this sleeping giant. It is a popular place for tourists and has a history center which is great to educate any visitor. It does cost $8 per adult (15 and above) but does include parking. “Do your part, support a park.”

Giant animated map of eruption.

One of Many Exhibits At Johnston Observatory

Along the way you pass the valleys that were at one point filled from the lahar, making up of slurry of ash, mud, water, and debris. The ash is easily visible throughout the drive up with areas carved out by waters exposing the trees buried.

Us in front of a sleeping giant

Family picture @ St. Helens.

As you make your way up you pass Coldwater Lake which is a great place to plan that family picnic.

We decided to continue to Johnston Point, and come back for lunch. Here is what looking into the volcano was like in 2004.

As good as we could see for the day.

As good as we could see for the day.

We got to the highest point you can get to at the point and the view was spectacular. There are many oaths, but many are covered by snow now. Great time to revisit will be at end of summer.

Kaila & Kristin

Kaila & Mommy

It was a little cloudy, but we were able to get some great views into the crater. We then headed back down to Coldwater Lake for lunch.

They loved the view.

There are a great number of trails and a nice paved walk around the area, which views onto the naturally damned up lake by the hummocks. If you have any knowledge of glaciers, it is easy to see how these great u-shaped valleys were created as huge glaciers carved them out, but that is another story.

Washington’s Grand Canyon

We decided to have a tailgate picnic from the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox and then made our way around the paved trail.

Water carving its path.

Water carving its path through volcanic ash.

We found some pumice rocks and found a tree that had been freshly taken down by a beaver.

Beaver’s at work?

We decided to make our way up to Johnston Point one more time before we left and caught a great view.

Beautiful valley leading towards Mt. St. Helens

Beautiful valley leading towards Mt. St. Helens

It was a great trip and we all had fun. We lucked out above 4,000 ft with clear skies which is all I could have asked for. It was fun to show Kaila the beauty of nature and to see her enjoy the breathtaking views.

Like toothpicks.

It is important that we show our kids things that cannot be replicated by any man, things that have shaped the physical world we live upon.

I think the best way to do this is by scenic trips.

What are some great places you have visited with your friends and loved ones?

Coldwater Lake.

U-Shaped valley indicator of a past glacier.

Baby blowing flower

The joys of nature

1 Comment

  1. Jackie P on July 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    wow this looks like a lot of fun! I recently read another blog about Mt. St. Helens that also had some great information. Between both blogs, I think you’ve convinced my to take the family there 🙂