Vision for a World-Class Lodge at Mount St. Helens Reaches a Major Milestone with 30 Year Permit

As the 42nd anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens approaches on May 18th, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest has issued a historic 30-year operating permit to the Mount St. Helens Institute as part of a long-standing partnership. This permit allows for long-term planning and paves the path for the creation of new opportunities in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, including expanded education, recreation, and tourism activities. 

“We look forward to working with our federal partners and the communities we serve to improve facilities and expand access to the outdoors. This is an opportunity to connect people from near and far with the volcano’s unique cultural and natural history” said Mount St. Helens Institute Executive Director Ray Yurkewycz.

The Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center was constructed in 1993 and operated by the USDA Forest Service until it closed to the public in 2007. The site lay dormant until 2011 when the Mount St. Helens Institute, through a partnership with the Forest Service, began to provide a modest offering of youth education programs and public events.

Mount St. Helens Institute currently has an ambitious vision to develop the Coldwater Ridge site into the Mount St. Helens Lodge & Education Center, investing in lodges, cabins, campgrounds, and facility renovations that will provide a world-class experience for a diverse range of visitors.

Currently, only a small portion of K-12 students in Washington participate in outdoor school. This expansive and sustainable vision will greatly increase the potential for outdoor education by enabling the Institute to host 5,000-6,000 youth annually for overnight outdoor school experiences.

Not only will the Institute’s efforts to establish a Lodge and Education Center at the Coldwater Visitor Center site greatly expand outdoor school opportunities it will provide new amenities and overnight accommodations for visitors to the Monument for the first time. These investments will also support the local economy by increasing visitor access to Mount St. Helens, creating jobs, and generating more tax revenues for the county and state.

Over the past three years, Mount St. Helens Institute has diligently pursued this vision, working through a permit process with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, creating a Master Plan with Hennebery Eddy Architects, and conducting fundraising and financial feasibility assessments. The Institute is currently pursuing private capital, state and federal funding, and philanthropic support to finance the Lodge and Education Center.

“Partnerships such as this strengthen our conservation education programming while benefitting local communities.” said Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Ranger Rebecca Hoffman, “The Forest’s decision to issue these 30-year operating permits to Mount St. Helens Institute is a result of our confidence in the Institute’s vision and due diligence.”

To learn more about the Mount St. Helens Lodge & Education Center vision, please email Mount St. Helens Institute Executive Director, Ray Yurkewycz at If you have questions about the partnership, please reach out to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Public Affairs Officer, Gala Miller at