Field Seminars

Since 2000, our field seminars have helped educate hundreds of people about the wild wonders of Mount St. Helens. We’ve taken people exploring on the Pumice Plain, led them to the volcano’s summit, showed them the stars, and shared with them the history of the eruption and how it changed the land. Our seminars are taught by highly experienced instructors who are passionate about their topic and eager to share their knowledge with the public. Seminars are open to all ages. Youth under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

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April 14-15 - NOLS Wilderness First Aid at the Science and Learning Center - REGISTRATION CLOSED

For detailed course info, click HERE

Meeting Location: Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center

Difficulty: Accessible

Whether spending time in the backcountry is your passion or your profession, you should never have to ask, "What do I do now?" Prepare for the unexpected with this fun, hands-on introduction to wilderness medicine. If you like to take short trips relatively close to medical resources, work at camps or lead wilderness trips, enjoy weekend family outdoor activities, or recreate outdoors, this course is for you. You'll learn the Patient Assessment System, how to provide effective first aid treatments for injuries and illnesses common in the outdoors, how to manage environmental emergencies, and how to make appropriate evacuation decisions. You will spend half your time practicing skills and participating in realistic scenarios.

Upon successful course completion you will earn the following NOLS Wilderness Medicine certifications: Wilderness First Aid, Epinephrine Auto-injector, and on courses with the CPR module, Adult and Child CPR & Airway Management.

Registration includes the course, homemade meals, and shared lodging Saturday and Sunday. Option to arrive Friday includes dinner, extra night of lodging, and Saturday breakfast.

May 20 - Tracking and Animal Signs


4-5 miles

Meeting Location: 

Pine Creek Information Center

Difficulty: Easy

A combination of storytelling and detective work, tracking provides a way to observe the mystery of wild animals, enabling us to detect their presence and learn about them from afar.  We will explore both on and off trail, using clues from animal tracks and trail patterns in a variety of mediums. Total hiking will not exceed 4 miles, with numerous stops to engage in learning opportunities along the way. This trip will be led by Teri Lysak, chairperson for Cascadia Wild, who has been teaching tracking for ten years and is Level 3 Track and Sign certified.


July 14 - Life Returns to the Pumice Plain


5 miles

Elevation Gain:


Meeting Location:

Windy Ridge

Difficulty: Moderate

Explore the Pumice Plain and discover how life returned from a barren landscape with the help of a surprising cast of biological characters. Led by ecologist Dr. John Bishop, WSU-Vancouver. This hike - from Windy Ridge to the Pumice Plain -looks at Mount St. Helens' most devastated landscape, where life was buried by the massive debris avalanche and sterilized by the incandescent pyroclastic flows during the 1980 eruption. Explore carpets of wildflowers, stream oases and the stunning Loowit Falls.


Awesome Hike


10 miles

Elevation Gain: 2000 ft (loss 3700 ft)

Meeting Location: Johnston Ridge Observatory

Difficulty: Strenuous

Perhaps the most spectacular trail system in the Mount St. Helens area, this challenging 10 mile hike from Johnston Ridge Observatory winds through the heart of the blast zone in the Mount Margaret Backcountry, past Coldwater Peak, and along south Coldwater Ridge. You’ll see spectacular wildflower displays, stunning views of St. Helens Lake and Spirit Lake, and twisted logging equipment: all reminders of the destructive and renewing powers of this great volcano. And at the end of the day, we’ll shuttle the group back to Johnston Ridge from Coldwater Lake. Guided by the Mount St. Helens Institute complete with geology and biology lessons, this will be a day you won’t soon forget!





August 9-12 - Loowit Backpacking


33 miles loop

Elevation Gain: 8,000 ft

Duration: Approximately 8-10 hiking hours/day depending on conditions and group, for 3 full days on the trail

Meeting Location: Mount St. Helen’s Institute 

42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd, Amboy, WA 98601

Difficulty: Extreme

The Loowit Trail is one of the top backpacking trips in the Pacific Northwest. You'll see the volcano from every angle on this challenging and awe-inspiring 4 day guided trip, learning about the natural history of Mount St. Helens while you're immersed in it!  Highlights of the trip include scenery ranging from old-growth to open expanses of volcanic blast zone; great potential to see wildlife including elk, mountain goats and black bear; up-close looks at the crater, Crater Glacier, and Spirit Lake; spectacular wildflower displays; and views from Mt. Rainier to the Three Sisters. This trip is designed for experienced backpackers.




August 19 - Driving Tour: Exploring the Toutle River Valley

Meeting Location: Mount St Helens Visitors Center - Silver Lake

Difficulty: Accessible

Transportation provided for tour
Join Christine Colasurdo, author of Return to Spirit Lake, on a horizon-widening trip up the Toutle River. We'll meet at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake – from there we'll travel up the Toutle River valley (transportation provided by the Mount St. Helens Institute). We’ll walk easy trails and gain an understanding of how the Toutle River valley was shaped by the volcano. In 1980, a massive mudflow surged down from Mount St. Helens and wiped out every bridge and road—including the Spirit Lake Highway—in its path. We’ll travel up the new highway, stop at a few points along the way, and end at the Johnston Ridge Observatory with its informative displays and spectacular view of the crater.


September 7-9 - Beginner Backpacking


15-20 miles loop

Elevation gain: 2,000 ft


5-8 hiking hours/day for two full days

Meeting Location: Mount St. Helens Institute

42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd, Amboy WA 98601

Difficulty: Moderate

Get introduced to the world of backpacking with this three day, two night trip in the epic shadow of an active volcano. We will meet as a group on Friday afternoon to discuss Backpacking 101, learn about gear, and how to pack our packs efficiently. After spending our first night in the front country, we will head to our trailhead Saturday morning and hike in to our beautiful backcountry campsite. We will cook dinner all together and hike out the next day, leaving plenty of time to explore the fall colors along the trail.




Writing with Fire: A Writing Workshop

Meeting Location: Johnson Ridge Observatory


3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

How can nature free the stories you want to tell? Designed for beginning and intermediate writers, this field seminar introduces a nature-sourced approach to the writing process. With Mount St. Helens as our muse, we’ll spend a day exploring a 7-step process for crafting powerful prose. You’ll learn techniques for unearthing ideas, generating drafts, and shaping raw material into a story you’ll be excited to share with the world. You’ll also learn simple daily rituals to feed your inspiration and motivation. This seminar is led by Shelby Gonzalez, senior writer for REI Co-op and former outdoor magazine editor. You’ll take home a complete draft of a story, plus a Writer’s First Aid Kit you can reference any time you need a jumpstart. Fusing hands-on learning, exhilarating exercises, and moments of mindfulness, this field seminar is an experience of wild creative flow.

Notebook and writing utensil provided. Feel free to bring your own.


Mushroom Foraging

Meeting Location: Pine Creek Information Station

Difficulty: Easy

Come explore the magical kingdom of fungi! Learn how to identify common characteristics of wild edible and inedible mushrooms. Then learn how to harvest many different types of edible mushrooms and cook them into delicious dishes. Plan to get your shoes and hands dirty as you discover the forest's most striking and sometimes delectable offerings.