Thinking about heading to Mount St. Helens now that spring seems to have arrived?
An unusually light snowpack in Gifford Pinchot National Forest — specifically Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument — may have some people ready to pack the car, take the kids and head on out to the mountain. But there are no plans to open any areas early that normally close for the winter, according to John Givvines, visitor information specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.
That means Johnston Ridge Observatory will remain closed until May 18, and Forest Roads 25 and 99 — which offer access to the Windy Ridge viewpoint from Randle in East Lewis County — will remain closed until likely late June.
“There are checks and balances that have to happen before we can reopen those,” Givvines said. “The roads have to be free of debris and they have to be inspected.”
Windy Ridge offers a view of Mount St. Helens from the northeast. That view is popular because it affords visitors a look at the side of the mountain from which the eruption cut a chunk from the peak. Spirit Lake is also visible from the viewpoint.
Meanwhile, state Route 504 is open to the Hummocks Trailhead just two miles past the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater. The gate remains closed to the Johnston Ridge Observatory seven miles away despite the road being free of snow.
Staffing is a major reason the Forest Service keeps the observatory closed until a prescribed time each year, whether or not snow still covers the roadway.
“We have seasonal employees that we hire for a certain amount of time,” Givvines said. “I can’t foresee why they would open up early.”
Several places in Gifford Pinchot National Forest are open. The Boundary Trail to the observatory, about 5 miles from Hummocks Trailhead, is mostly snow-free.