AAA Editor Notes
Scenic Drives are provided by a network of state and forest roads connecting with I-5 and US 12. Mount St. Helens is visible on clear days from Chehalis to Salem, Ore. A series of Forest Service roads forms a 60-mile link between Cougar and Randle, the principal western and northern gateways into the forest. FR 90, along the southern edge of the volcanic area east of Cougar, is paved as far as the intersection with FR 25, a paved road extending north to Randle.
A number of paved and gravel forest service roads branch off FRs 90 and 25, with viewpoints within the volcanic area. Many forest service roads are closed from October through May or June, depending on snow conditions. A concession stand and portable toilets are available at Cascade Viewpoint on FR 99. Groceries are available at the east end of Swift Reservoir.
Roads, some unpaved, leading into the volcanic area include Cougar Creek Road (FR 8303) from FR 83 to Ape Cave, which crosses a 1,900-year-old lava field with numerous caves and tubes. The first 10 miles of FR 81 from Cougar passes Merrill Lake and Kalama Falls.
A particularly scenic road is Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (SR 504), which follows the north fork of the Toutle River to Johnston Ridge Observatory. Overlooks along the highway provide views of the crater and northwest lava dome, the blast zone, Castle Lake and Coldwater Lake. The road ends 7 miles beyond Coldwater Ridge at Johnston Ridge.
FR 99 branches off FR 25 and travels west past Meta Lake to within 5 miles of the volcano at Windy Ridge. There, at the road's end, visitors have a dramatic view of the devastation stretching from Mount St. Helens' crater to Spirit Lake.
Food is available.