Last June we went on our second camping trip of the summer. We drove down towards Cougar and stayed at a nice private campground right on a lake.

Z loved the campground because he could play in the sand, drift wood, and rocks right at the water’s edge. We loved it too because it was, most of the time, our own private lake access.

While we were there we of course explored the different sides of St. Helens. We went on an awesome waterfall hike/walk along a lava canyon.

Z walked most of it and was only carried for short distances. There were options to go further into the canyon and go across the canyon on a bridge.

But we knew that would be for another older kid or kid-less trip.

We also went on a old growth forest hike/walk along boardwalks where an old lava flow had been. It was surprising to see lava tubes some wide enough to climb through.

I noticed what looked like wells on both sides of the board walk only to discover these were holes were where whole trees burned from the roots up.

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In addition to these walks/hikes we went on many drives to explore the different mountain faces. This gave us information on where we could go camping another time, what hikes we could do on another trip, and plenty of great views of the mountain and surrounding area.


On another day we took the long drive in to the Johnston Ridge Observatory of St. Helens. After camping in the lush green on the southern end, it was somewhat eerie to travel over such quiet and open territory going on bridges over rock beds where lava had flown down the mountains in the large eruption 40 years ago. There were a few stops along the way with picnic benches and bathrooms but otherwise it was a very empty and windy drive. Finally at the top, we took in the great view of St. Helens and of the ravine created by the lava flow below.


Our favorite part of the observatory was the movie sharing the history of the mountain and it’s eruption in 1980. We were surprised to find Z fully immersed in the story. They showed video capturing the moment that Helen’s erupted and the rock slide (largest in recorded history) that followed. All I could think of was the phrase “mountains melt like wax . . .” because that is what it looked like.

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We also enjoyed exploring how nature has adapted in the wake of the destruction creating new lakes were  and forest growth.

It was a memorable trip with a relaxing campground. We know the trip had a lasting impression on our son because months after our visit Z would talk about the mountain that went “boom”.

One thought on “Snapshot: St. Helens Camping

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