Mt St Helens Weekend (North side)

Last Updated on November 9, 2023

Looking for a fantastic short getaway full of outdoor adventure and volcano education? Make it a Mt St Helens weekend! A great and affordable basecamp for a weekend exploring the north side of Mt St Helens National Monument (the side where the most destruction is visible from the 1980 eruption) is Seaquest State Park, just a few miles from I-5 on State Route 504, the road to the Johnston Ridge Observatory as well as Coldwater Lake.

Related: Perfect Mt St Helens day trip from Seattle or Portland

Seaquest state park has both tent camping and yurts, which are a fun alternative to tent camping (with heat)! The best time of year for a Mt St Helens weekend is mid May through October, when the road is open all the way to Johnston Ridge. Make sure to have a full tank of gas before leaving I-5 as well as all the food you’ll need for your weekend as there are no services in the area.

A forest with two yurts and two picnic tables
Yurt Village at Seaquest state park has five yurts, each of which sleep 5 people

The park itself has some great hiking, including a loop that goes around Silver lake (featuring lots of birds and amphibians) as well as through a misty, green forest.

Dense green undergrowth in a rainforest
Lush green hiking in Seaquest State park

When you’re ready to explore the Blast Zone, it’s just an hour to get to Johnston Ridge Observatory, which has an excellent visitor center, a movie theater and lots of hiking trails.

Once you’ve learned all about the eruption and the return of life to Mt St Helens, it’s a great time for a hike. There is no shade here at all, so make sure to bring lots of extra water and sun protection, even if it doesn’t feel like a hot day (along with your 10 essentials). If you’re not up for a long hike, it’s still worth it to walk out on the Boundary trail to get away from crowds and get a feel for the devastation of the blast zone.

a hill with decaying flattened trees lying along it
Flattened trees from the blast of the 1980 eruption along the Boundary Trail

If you’re up for a longer excursion (and have enough water, food and sun protection), you can continue to a junction and go up to Harry’s Ridge or down into the Pumice Plain. In either direction you can see the 1980 eruption devastation caused by the largest landslide in recorded history as well as the lateral explosion from the crater which is less than 5 miles away!

Rolling rocks from a volcanic landscape without trees
Along the trail in the pumice plain


High hills with a lake. The surrounding land is barren after a volcanic eruption
The edge of Spirit Lake from the Pumice Plain. Before 1980, Spirit Lake was a popular recreation area, full of cabins and camps, which are now buried under 200 feet of debris and water and is closed to the public!

Another great stop is at Coldwater Lake, a large and beautiful lake created by the 1980 eruption damming a creek. This is a good option for a second day, since it’s a shorter distance up the road. There are several wonderful hiking trails around Coldwater lake as well.

Deep blue lake surrounded by forested hills and distant mountains against a blue sky
Coldwater Lake was created by the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens

Bring your sense of adventure and imagination and experience a unique landscape at a moment in time and grow your awe for nature’s power and ability to renew itself! 

Ready for an even bigger adventure? Check out this post for how you can plan to climb to the crater rim of Mt St Helens!

A volcano against a blue sky with red wildflowers in the foreground. Text reads: Mt St Helens Volcano Weekend
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!