Spirit Lake Memorial Highway
Department of Transportation.
Spirit Lake Memorial Highway takes travelers through land
shattered by Mount St. Helens’ eruption in 1980. Because the
valley floor is now so unstable, the highway is cut into the tops
of the hillside and offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.
The highway concludes after 54 miles at Mount St. Helens National
Monument with the dramatic spectacle of Mount St. Helens gaping
Evolution of the Highway
Early in the century Spirit Lake Memorial Highway began as an
uneven wagon track. In the 1930s the road was paved and ended at
the pristine, serene Spirit Lake, the highway’s namesake. The
life-changing eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980
annihilated the upper half of the road and mudflows devastated
miles of the lower portion. The highway was rebuilt and reopened in
1992. Despite the highway’s name, the road now ends high on
Johnston Ridge before the visitor has a chance to get a good look
at Spirit Lake, but allowing a striking view of the volcano
Named as a Memorial
This scenic byway is truly a memorial to its surroundings.
Visitors will not lack for sights and activities to keep them busy
at the five visitor centers that line the highway. Each center
covers different aspects of Mount St. Helens eruption, from the
events that led up to the blast to the recovery of trees and
animals. The spectacular, sometimes stricken landscape surrounding
the highway reminds visitors of the raw energy the earth can
Navigating the Byway:
Driving the Byway
Starting in Castle Rock, drive east along SR 504 until reaching
the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument where the byway
ends at the Johnston Ridge Volcanic Observatory.