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.

Summer 2016 Programs

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center will be displaying the historical exhibit “Washington State Parks Through the Lens of Asahel Curtis” from May 20th through September 15th.  The Visitor Center will be open 7 days a week, from 9:00am-5:00pm while the exhibit is housed.

This traveling art display features rare 1930’s era images of State Parks. These photographs, taken during the Great Depression, capture the early recreational use and development of Washington’s state park system. A prominent photographer of the Pacific Northwest, Asahel Curtis captured his subjects in black and white, and color-tinted the frames by hand, a unique type of media known as lantern slides. Join us for this historical experience, to take a look into our past.  For a list of our other summer programs, click here.
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

When visiting our facility there is no admission charge for educational groups kindergarten through university, if pre-registered, and if completing an assignment during their visit related to the science and history of the area (provided by teacher). Teachers can call (360) 274-0962 or email to register their school group. Upon approval a confirmation email will be sent. Schools can schedule park ranger guided programs and talks at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center or in the classroom.

Nearby Visitor Centers

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake is one of several Interpretive Centers located on the Spirit Lake Highway with information about the volcano. The Forest Learning Center, operated by Weyerhaeuser is located at milepost 37. The Science Learning Center, operated by the Mount St. Helens Institute is at milepost 43. The Johnston Ridge Observatory, operated by the U.S. Forest Service is at milepost 52, for more information about their facility please visit the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument site.