Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Science and Learning Center Winter Reopening Celebration

As winter approaches, visitors may be looking for things to do on the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The Mount St. Helens Institute is hosting an event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, to mark the winter reopening of the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater. Beginning Nov. 4, visitors to Mount St. Helens can explore the Science and Learning Center on weekends while the Johnston Ridge Observatory is closed for the winter season. The event features live music by Raeann Phillips, art workshops with biologist and artist Natalie Tonn, Forest Service Ranger talks, volcano and winter themed crafts, a Mount St. Helens photo booth, lunch on-site, a gift shop, and more. A full schedule is available at A $10 suggested donation includes lunch and all activities.

The Science and Learning Center is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through mid-May, when the Johnston Ridge Observatory reopens for the summer. Visitors to the Science and Learning Center during winter can enjoy a hike or snowshoe on nearby trails around the monument, watch two films about the 1980 eruption, pick up a souvenir at the gift shop, and learn fascinating facts from employees and volunteers who love sharing information about this special landscape.

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day is Saturday, Sept. 24, one of the five fee-free days in 2015 observed by the U.S. Forest Service to encourage everyone to experience their public lands. Fees are waived at most federal day-use areas, such as picnic grounds, developed trailheads, and visitor centers. In Southwest Washington, that means that every recreational site on Gifford Pinchot National Forest land is free for you to explore—as is the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. (Fees for camping and cabin rentals still apply, FYI.) To find a recreation site near you, visit this interactive recreation map.

And here’s a bonus for families of fourth graders: as part of the national Every Kid in a Park initiative, all fourth graders and their families can claim their free Every Kid in a Park pass, which allows free entry into and use of all federal parks, forests, and recreation areas for a full year. Fourth graders can print out a paper voucher for free entry into and use of all federal lands by visiting the Every Kid in a Park website at Students and their families can also redeem their paper voucher for a plastic pass at any Forest Service office. The voucher and passes are valid for the entire school year, from now through Aug. 31, 2017.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest encompasses over 1.3 million acres of land owned by the American public. For more information about National Public Lands Day, visit

Above image: a hiker walks through Indian Heaven Wilderness. Photo courtesy of Gifford Pinchot National Forest; see more on its Facebook page.