Forest Roads 25, 26, and 99 provide access to the east side of Mount St. Helens. The primary destination on the east side is Windy Ridge, where you can see Spirit Lake and a magnificent up-close view of the volcano. Take Roads 25 and 99 to reach the viewpoint. Forest Road 26 turns south from Iron Creek Campground and leads to Quartz Creek Big Trees area, where a half-mile path takes you through old-growth Douglas firs that escaped the eruption. Just a mile away is the edge of the zone where trees were flattened in the blast (trees in this area were salvaged after the eruption). From here on, everything was destroyed by the force of the eruption. Road 26 is blocked south of here due to washouts.
At Ryan Lake another short trail provides views of the lake filled with downed trees. This area is usually accessible year-round, with open, flat areas for cross-country skiing. Meta Lake—at the junction of Forest Roads 26 and 99—has a paved trail and the famous Miner’s Car, destroyed in the blast. Three people had driven here the night before the volcano gave way on May 18, 1980 and were killed in a nearby cabin by the superheated explosion. Meta Lake is coming back surprisingly fast from the destruction, in part because ice and snow protected fish and other animals from the heat. Nature walks are offered here daily during the summer months.
Windy Ridge stands at the end of Road 99, 4,000 feet above sea level and 34 miles southwest of Randle. It is just five miles from the crater itself. Climb the 361 steps for an incredible view into the volcano, across the devastated pumice plain, and over log-choked Spirit Lake. Forest Service interpretive personnel are here daily May–October, providing frequent talks about the volcano from the amphitheater.
There are no improved campgrounds along Forest Roads 25 or 99 between Iron Creek Campground in Randle and Cougar.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition