Mount St. Helens Visitor Center

Visitors CenterSince October of 2000, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has operated the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake as a result of a partnership agreement (under a special use permit) with the United States Forest Service. In May of 2007, Washington State Parks accepted ownership of the center from the U.S. Forest Service. The center, which opened in 1987, plays host to more than 300,000 visitors a year.

Design Features
Built in the architectural mode known as Cascade style, the Silver Lake Visitor Center won a design award from President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Its large windows and sweeping, upward lines contribute to the feeling of magnificence surrounding the mountain. Inside, visitors may enjoy a variety of interpretive displays that set the scene for all the visitor centers at Mount St. Helens. There are comprehensive presentations on the cultural and historical significance of the area, a chronology of events leading up to the volcanic blast on May 18, 1980, local geology, and the re-growth and recovery of the area in the years since the eruption.

Displays include: Volcanic plume
  • Large, step-in model of the volcano
  • Life-size mannequins
  • Several interactive exhibits
  • Theater programs offered twice an hour
  • Working seismograph
Outdoors, visitors can explore Silver Lake via a mile-long trail, including boardwalks over wetlands where a variety of migratory waterfowl may be viewed at different times of the year.

March 1 - May 15, open daily 9:00 - 4:00
May 16 - September 15, open daily 9:00 - 5:00
September 16 - October 31, open daily 9:00 - 4:00 
November 1 - February 28, open Thursday through Monday 9:00 - 4:00

 The center is closed in observance of the following holidays:
  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Presidents' Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving and the Friday after
  • Christmas

AdmissionVisitor Center interior
Admission prices for the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake are:

  • Ages 6 and younger: Free
  • Ages 7 to 17: $2.50
  • Ages 18 and older: $5
  • Family: $15 (two adults plus accompanying children)
  • Tour groups: $165 per bus
The following State Parks passes are honored at the Silver Lake Visitor Center:
  • Senior limited-income: Half price
  • Disabled pass: Half price
  • Disabled veterans' pass: Free admission
Boardwalk There is no admission charge for educational groups kindergarten through university, if pre-registered. Call 360-274-0962 or visit the teachers' corner to register. Schools may schedule park rangers to provide interpretive talks for earth-science programs at the visitor center or in the classroom. Please call 360-274-0962 or send an email for more information.

Nearby Visitor Centers
The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake is one of two visitor centers with information about the volcano. The USDA Forest Service operates the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is located at milepost 52 on State Route 504. For information about this center, please visit the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument site or call 360-449-7800.