Forest Road 99 affords everyone the opportunity to get out and see the windswept views of the blast zone, and just about look directly into the volcano’s crater at the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. For the more adventurous, the gives everyone easy access to some seriously beautiful wildflower hikes along the Truman Trail. It also passes by several areas of interest, including the only place you can hike to Spirit Lake's shore, a demolished miner's car, a beautiful brand new lake and much more. This is one drive and experience you don't want to miss as you get immersed directly in the heart of the blast zone AND get to see nature's regeneration at work. The viewpoint isn't the only attraction, as mentioned above; here are some other things you can do along the route as well!
Bring a road or mountain bike, park the car at Bear Meadow, and enjoy a 30-mile roundtrip on one of the most ecologically diverse rides you might ever take. From Bear Meadow to Windy Ridge, you’ll pass through a stand of evergreen forest, then suddenly the landscape will change to a dead forest consisting of trees with no foliage, to an area just wiped clean by the blast. The change in scenery is stunning. Also, who wouldn’t want to ride on a road with NO TRAFFIC for the time being? It would be just you, whoever you bring, and whoever you might run into out there who also might be taking advantage of the same opportunity. That’s turning lemons into lemonade if we’ve ever heard of it.
You’ll have to check the Forest Service’s website on the status of this trail, but the Boundary Trail goes into some seriously beautiful areas and takes you down into the blast zone. Take the Boundary Trail on over to the Norway Pass area and explore the topographical changes by foot. You’ll hike from an old-growth forest to an area containing a ridge, then back toward the pass. Bring some binoculars and a camera, because you never know what wildlife you may encounter out there. Mountain goats have been known to roam the back hills and especially the Mount Margaret area, and they’re quite the sight to see.
This is a place of historical significance. Gary Rosenquist shot the iconic series of photographs documenting the 1980 eruption as it happened, and thousands of people across the world have seen those now-famous images that are seared into the memory of everyone living in the Northwest. This is a beautiful spot to get away for a picnic, a brief walkabout, or just to gaze out and enjoy the view of the mountain in the distance above the trees. This view might not last too much longer as the trees grow back and nature reclaims its space, so enjoy and treasure this view while you still can.
Getting to Forest Road 99 is really easy. From U.S. Highway 12 in Randle, take State Route 131 south and you’ll notice it becomes Forest Road 25. Just keep driving for about 30 minutes or maybe a bit longer, and you’ll hit Forest Road 99 on your right in no time. Signage will show you where it’s at.