Just six miles from the crater of the volcano that last erupted more than three decades ago, the Windy Ridge Viewpoint is the prime destination for those seeking to see Mount St. Helens from the east.
It's the closest you can get by car, so even if you never leave the driver's seat or any of the passenger seats, you're still greeted with a view of the massive mountain and the entire north side that slid off in the blast. But with so much to do at Windy Ridge, why wouldn't you want to venture outside?
You've probably been in the car for awhile at this point, so get out and traverse more than 300 stairs to the viewpoint high above the parking lot for a grand view of both Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake. If you're up for a hike, you can continue on the trail and hit Smith Creek Viewpoint and points further south.
In the late spring and summer, rangers with the U.S. Forest Service give talks from the amphitheater about the history of the mountain, its eruption and how the ecosystem is recovering. They're fascinating lessons on what you're looking at right in front of you, so take advantage of this free opportunity.
The viewpoint is also the eastern terminus for the Truman Trail, which takes hikers up close and personal with the mountain itself. The Truman Trail offers a fantastic trek through the valley below the mountain, and eventually meets up with other trails that can take you to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Loowit Falls, Coldwater Peak and other places throughout the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Mount Margaret Backcountry.
Windy Ridge Viewpoint is the end of Forest Road 99, so once you're done here, make your way back down and enjoy the trip!