The Winding Road to Windy Ridge


Mount St Helens Volcano

What started out as a trip to a state park that I had not been to before turned into a much longer drive than what I had expected. I had planned on hiking on some old-growth forest trails in the park. Upon arriving, I found the park practically deserted. Perhaps it was because it was in the middle of a work week and so close to the school season starting. Anyway, I didn’t feel comfortable and so I left. I was traveling east on US Hwy 12, heading east toward the Cascade Mountains. I decided to keep driving east and then head south from the town of Randle, into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to access the Windy Ridge area of the Mount St Helens volcano. I knew it was going to be a long and rough ride, but, what the heck! What else was there to do?

The morning started out with clear, blue skies in the Puget Sound area, but as I drove further south, a wide bank of high, thin clouds were moving closer toward me. This became disconcerting to me, as any good landscape photographer knows that a white-washed sky makes for the worst landscape photos. But, I was here and had to make the best of it. So, please pardon the no-contrast sky in some of my photos.

After more than 30 miles of winding, bumpy Forest Roads 25 and 99, I finally reached the Mount St Helens Windy Ridge area. The first stop you will come to is Bear Meadow. Here you can purchase a required Forest Access Pass for $5. Make sure you have correct change, as this is a pay-envelope station only! It is where you will get your first view of the volcano, as well. Along the way, summer wildflowers are prolific, especially the white, Pearly Everlasting and the pretty, pink Fireweed. Here are a few photos of the wildflowers I snapped at Bear Meadow.

003Pearly Everlasting Wildflowers


The following photos were taken along Forest Road 99, in the Windy Ridge area of the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. This area of the national volcanic monument is probably the best to witness, up-close, the devastation that occurred from the original 1980 blast. Included are views of the volcano, Spirit Lake, and the standing ghost forest, which was once part of the pristine forest area before the 1980 volcanic blast. Much of the devastated valley area is now resurrected with new forest. Imagine what it looked like immediately after the blast: nothing but miles of grey ash and naked, bare, blown down trees.

030040041047057064069065087090092093062Mount Adams, as prominently seen from Windy Ridge area

Please remember, if visiting this area of the national volcanic monument, bring plenty of food, water, sunscreen, and fuel for your vehicle. The closest fuel station is at the turn-off located on Hwy 12, in the town of Randle. And, from my experience, late summer is really buggy with the bees and flying insects of all types. July is a much better time to visit, in my opinion. Also, be aware that this area of the monument does not open until some time in June due to the heavy snowpack on the forest roads. For more information, visit:

© Peggy A Thompson

About northwestphotos

A long time resident of Washington State, located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest USA. I am retired and enjoy regional travel, exploring all the wondrous, natural settings that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. If you get a chance, visit my Northwestphotos Zazzle store,
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8 Responses to The Winding Road to Windy Ridge

  1. It’s astonishing, the damage it can do, but also the resiliance of life. Beautiful shots!

    • Thanks! I kind of wished the immediate area stayed the way it looked right after the blast to show and remind people just how much power a volcano has. I was there to witness it back then, and I will never forget how the exact same area looked. It was like a throw back in time to prehistoric ages.

  2. Sartenada says:

    Very interesting post and so lovely photos. I remember very well Mount St Helens. We had long TV program from it in our national TV and I was deeply inspired about what happened.

  3. Marvelous, Peggy… that is one of my favorite drives. A couple years ago I headed up that way in the middle of the night and wandered my way along running down batteries and filling up my cards.. it was October, no one was around, and I loved it… Such an intense landscape full of destruction and new fresh growth now! Great collection of photos and lovely write up

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