Serving as a passageway to the breathtaking Mount St Helens, the historic city of Castle Rock, WA is connected to two of the most incredible attractions for visitors and tourists: the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway and the Mount St Helens National Monument, Visitor Center and Cellars. Other places of notable interest include the Johnston Ridge Observatory, the Forest Learning Center, Hummocks Trail, Seaquest State Park, Loowit Trail #216, and The Garden at Stillmeadow, Vault Books and Brew, as the Castle Rock Donuts. The city’s downtown area also offers a selection of antique stores, restaurants, shops, and accommodations. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Mount St Helens Visitor Center
The Mount St Helens Visitor Center was opened in order to help educate the visitors to the area about the history of the volcano, and how its recent eruption altered the landscape, wildlife and ecosystems. The center has numerous displays to help with its teaching, from a walk-in model of the St Helens volcano to a live seismograph which monitors and displays the current activity levels of the volcano. There is also a half-hourly theater program. The building itself is built with large glass windows to allow those inside to see the new growth and regeneration of the forests around it.
3029 Spirit Lake Highway, Castle Rock, WA 98611, Phone: 360-274-0962
2.Johnston Ridge Observatory
For those wanting to find the ultimate views of Mount St Helens, the Cliffside Johnston Ridge Observatory offers a unique vantage point of the debris from the eruption. It allows visitors to see the entire volcano, including the crater, lava dome as well as the blast zone, in which it is built. The observatory also has available eyewitness accounts from individuals who survived the recent eruption. Theater programs and educational talks and walks are also on offer.
24000 Spirit Lake Hwy, Toutle, WA 98649, Phone: 360-274-2140
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3.Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, Castle Rock, WA
© Nicole Thompson/stock.adobe.com
Following the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980, the landscape and ecosystems surrounding it were changed irreparably. The previous road on the floor of the valley was engulfed by mudslides at the time of the eruption, and in the aftermath of the disaster, the ground was left too unstable for rebuilding. Thus, a new highway was carved instead into the surrounding hillsides. This ‘memorial highway’ passes directly through the blast zone and gives an incredible opportunity to view the devastation caused by the event, including a unique chance to see the gaping hole in the volcano which collapsed from the sheer power of its eruption.
Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, Castle Rock, WA, Phone: 360-274-5200
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4.Forest Learning Center, Castle Rock, Washington
Situated just inside Mount St Helens’ blast zone, the Forest Learning Center and is found alongside the wondrous Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. It was built by the Weyerhaeuser Company with the intention of keeping the story of the forest’s destruction by the 1980 eruption, and its subsequent rebirth, alive. It offers a highly immersive walk-through experience, where visitors can get a real feel for the events that panned out that day. The first room features the moments immediately prior to the eruption, and the second then shows the ravaged landscape that was left in the aftermath. A real-life account from a local news reporter brings the entire experience to life. Meanwhile, the second half of the experience shows how the forest recovered, with life sized models and exceptional photography depicting the scale of the recovery project.
17000 Spirit Lake Hwy, Toutle, WA 98649, Phone: 360-414-3439
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5.Hummocks Trail, Castle Rock, Washington
Winding its way between the peculiar hill formations left in the wake of Mount St Helens’ eruption, the Hummocks Trail is a gentle and relaxing hike. The easy-to-navigate terrain makes it suitable for both little legs and adults alike. Elk, waterfowl, frogs and newts—the descendants of survivors of the eruption—call the area home, and sightings of these species are common. The first quarter-mile stretch of the trail is also marked with interpretive signs, which allow for the identification of certain notable features.
Milepost 45, Mount St. Helens, Castle Rock, WA
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6.Seaquest State Park, Castle Rock, Washington
Seaquest State Park is set on 505 acres of revived forestland which surrounds Mount St Helens. It offers campers seven miles of beautiful hiking trails, including one mile of ADA approved routes. The park borders on the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway and is neighbors with the Mount St Helens Visitor Center, making it the ideal base for exploration and discovery of the area. The park also offers nearby seasonal activities such as boating, fishing and swimming, and has access to its own volleyball field, horseshoe pits, play areas, amphitheater and bird watching bases.
Seaquest State Park, 3030 Spirit Lake Highway, Castle Rock, WA 98611, Phone: 360-274-8633
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7.Loowit Trail #216, Castle Rock, Washington
Not a hike for the faint hearted, Loowit Trail #216 features incredibly rough and rugged rocky terrain around the bases of Mount St Helens. This unique hike allows you to experience the full effects of the eruption and witness for yourself the forest’s resilience and determination to recover, even in the trickiest of conditions. The trail is 30 miles long in its entirety, split up into seven sections, and this allows for plenty of time to get a feel for the truly wild landscape.
Loowit Trail #216, Castle Rock, WA
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8.Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center
© Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center
Religious folk who find it hard to reconcile the Christian story of creation with the overwhelming scientific evidence to support the Big Bang Theory will benefit from visiting the Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center. The center exists to showcase evidence that the world is indeed much younger than the Big Bang theory would lead us to believe. You will see scientific evidence of many recent geological processes which we have always believed took place over thousands of years, but are in fact far more recent. Whether or not you subscribe to the Christian belief of Genesis or the scientific Big Bang theory and evolution, a visit to the Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center is a thought-provoking experience.
Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center, 147 Front Ave NW, Castle Rock, WA 98611, 360 274 5737
9.Vault Books and Brew, Castle Rock, Washington
© Vault Books and Brew
The old bank building which is home to Vault Books and Brew was originally built in 1910, and has long been seen as an important part of the Castle Rock community. Despite recent renovations, the property has retained some of its characteristic charm from days-gone-by when it had served as the local bank, including the original vault and the crown molding. Selling both new and new-to-you books, they now offer a great selection of treasures of the literature kind for visitors to browse, along with delicious, freshly-prepared coffee, ice cream and deli.
20 Cowlitz Street West, Castle Rock, Washington, Phone: 360-967-2299
8 Best Things to Do in Castle Rock, Washington
- Mount St Helens Visitor Center, Photo: westwindgraphics/stock.adobe.com
- Johnston Ridge Observatory, Photo: Francisco/stock.adobe.com
- Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, Castle Rock, WA, Photo: Nicole Thompson/stock.adobe.com
- Forest Learning Center, Castle Rock, Washington, Photo: Tryfonov/stock.adobe.com
- Hummocks Trail, Castle Rock, Washington, Photo: Steve/stock.adobe.com
- Seaquest State Park, Castle Rock, Washington, Photo: kichigin19/stock.adobe.com
- Loowit Trail #216, Castle Rock, Washington, Photo: Maridav/stock.adobe.com
- Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center, Photo: Mount St. Helen’s Creation Center
- Vault Books and Brew, Castle Rock, Washington, Photo: Vault Books and Brew
- Cover Photo: khomlyak/stock.adobe.com
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