Hiking at Mount Saint Helens Johnston’s Ridge Observatory

For years, my dream has been to see a view of a mountain with wildflowers scattered around. That dream finally came to fruition this summer while we were in Washington! I had originally wanted to venture up to Mount Rainier as they’re iconically known for those views. However, it was a two hour drive there and it seemed to be in peak busy season. I did a bit more research and read some blog posts mentioning Mount Saint Helens wildflowers. That was much closer!

The drive up was pretty vacant, but insanely beautiful. Pine trees off both sides of the road, skinny bridges high above the pines. It was breathtaking, yet a little anxiety inducing. I am not a fan of heights. You should have seen me the first time I drove a mountain pass. Semis were flying by me as I squeaked along going 40 mph in a 75 zone. Ha! I’ve done it so much since then though that I now go the speed limit and enjoy the views.

The beauty started the instant we arrived in the parking lot. Wildflowers everywhere! I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes. I probably snapped about 30 photos before we even got to the Johnston’s Ridge Observatory building. The other shocker was how chilly it was! It had been 70 in Longview when we left. As we climbed out of the car at the observatory, the car thermostat read 47. Thankfully I had brought hoodies for everyone. It warmed up to the mid 60’s with sunshine during the hike and that was absolutely perfect.

After using the outhouses, you won’t come across one on the hike, we headed towards the observatory. We walked along the paved sidewalk, rounded the corner, and there it was. The first mesmerizing view of Mount Saint Helens. Right there. I have never in my life been this close to a volcano. It was amazing. Sometimes I ponder if I haven’t seen much, as I’m always in awe of everything, while others are just pleasant without bubbling excitement. I get giddy with every colorful sunrise or sunset I see, so it might just be how I roll.

I’m not even sure what trail we took, but it was the only one leading straight off the main paved sidewalk. It started out rocky and then dirt, and finally ash. We were hiking in volcanic ash! Some of the edges at the start of the hike were quite steep looking, I was hanging onto my more wild children a little tighter, but majority of the hike was easy. We had 6 kids total along and they all did fabulous. My husband and I had to take turns carrying the two youngest, but even that wasn’t hard. We spent 3 hours hiking, making the view of the lake our turning point. After that, it looked a bit too difficult of terrain for the littles. That was another magnificent view. A little lake nestled down between the rocky cliffs, pines and wildflowers scattered around, Mount Saint Helens looming off to one side.

Thoughout the entire hike, there’s a nearly constant view of mount Saint Helens. I believe I had read that the crater was approximately two miles from Johnston’s ridge. We did see a little bit of wildlife as well. We came across a little squirrel sitting along the trail nibbling on a little snack he’d found himself and stopped to watch him for a bit. Seriously adorable! Right before we got back to the observatory, I spotted a quite large snake hiding near a rock. I do not like snakes.

I was a bit nervous of mountain lions or cougars or some other deadly animal coming upon us, but it didn’t happen and we didn’t see any, so no worries! We took quite a few water and snack breaks, a slightly longer one for lunch. I had a little bag of peanut m and m’s in my backpack that I’d give to myself or the kids when we needed a pick me up. They’re basically trail mix and were a delight on the trail when I stumbled across them in my bag.

I was incredibly happy with the whole day! The kids did so good, there wasn’t hardly any complaining, we got a good workout, saw gorgeous sights. I can’t wait to go there again next summer. Only thing I’ll do differently is bring coffee. We grabbed coffee after in the nearby town of Castle Rock and it was disgusting, and it’s my firm belief that coffee makes everything better.

If you’re ever near Mount Saint Helens, I highly recommend this hike. Kids or no kids, it’s an amazing and breathtaking experience. Try go end of July mid August when the wildflowers are abundant! Bring coffee. Wear comfortable shoes, I wore filas which were good at first, but once we were descending, my toes were killing! Snacks, food, hoodie, water. Use the restrooms before hitting the trail. Make sure your phone or camera is charged for pics! Enjoy!


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