Spirit Lake Memorial Highway

This is the only scenic byway in Washington State, not to mention the United States, that enters a volcanic blast zone. Also known as the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, SR-504 is a 52-mile journey into the scene of epic destruction that Mount St. Helens caused when it erupted on May 18, 1980.

Key points of interest:

  • Forest Learning Center – Directly following the Mount St. Helens eruption, workers from the Weyerhaeuser timber company swarmed across the devastated land, hauling out enough salvaged logs to build 85,000 three-bedroom homes. The company did its part to rebuild the forest by hand-planting 18 million seedlings. Today, you can almost see a line between the trees that were farmed and the natural regeneration of plant-life at the mountain.
  • Mount St. Helens Visitor’s Center – The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center opened its doors to the public a few years after the monumental eruption of Mount St. Helens. Functioning as a gateway to the mountain, over 30 miles away, the Visitor Center’s goal is to educate visitors on the historical significance of the landscape before and during the eruption. The center also focuses on the resulting impact on nearby ecosystems. The vantage point offers a view of the Western slope of the mountain, visible from both the center and walking trail.
  • Coldwater Lake Boardwalk – On this short, accessible trail, interpretive displays explain how the 1980 debris avalanche from Mount St. Helens dammed Coldwater Creek creating the lake. Chewed trees, the signs of beavers at work, can often be seen around the trail.