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What are some things to see in Mount St. Helens National Park?

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Quick Answer

Things to see in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument include the Ape Cave, the Trail of Two Forests and the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The monument, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, highlights the area that was devastated during the major volcanic eruption on May 18, 1980.

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Full Answer

The Ape Cave is a lava tube that was discovered in 1947. The cave is unusual because it was created by a basaltic lava flow more commonly found in Hawaii. As the lava flowed down Mount St. Helens, the outer crust cooled, forming the cave. Open year-round, the cave demands of its visitors sturdy shoes, warm clothing and two light sources per person. Lanterns are available for rent.

The Trail of Two Forests leads hikers through two forests that were created 2,000 years apart. One is old-growth, filled with towering Douglas firs and red cedars. The other took root on the barren landscape created by the eruption. The trees are still on the small side, but other sights include lava casts of the trees that were toppled during the eruption. The eruption covered them with ash, creating a now hardened three-dimensional imprint of the fallen timber.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is tucked away at the end of State Highway 504 and is in the middle of the volcanic blast zone. Open from mid-May through the end of October, the observatory gives visitors a panoramic view of the recovering landscape. Interpretive displays, films and ranger talks help tell the story.

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