Mount St. Helens Lodge and Education Center

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is one of the most iconic landscapes and unique outdoor learning laboratories in the Pacific Northwest. Four decades after its historic eruption, the rebirth of this mountain spurs curiosity and wonder and invites endless education and recreation opportunities. 

About MSHI: For over 25 years, Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI) has connected people of all ages and backgrounds to this awe-inspiring volcano through overnight youth experiences, guided family hikes, meaningful volunteer opportunities and more. MSHI supports the human connection to the land and advances understanding and stewardship of the Earth through science, education, and exploration. 

Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity: MSHI has a unique opportunity to transform the Monument's aging and ill-equipped former Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center into a world-class campus where everyone can experience the wonder of the volcano. 

Together with our partners, MSHI will establish the Mount St. Helens Lodge and Education Center—a place where recreation bolsters local economies; a place where K-12 public school students explore Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics careers in the outdoor classroom of an active volcano; and a place where people of all ages discover the scientific and cultural significance of this iconic landscape and recreate on its trails and lakes.

Despite all that we can learn from this unique landscape, compared to other national parks and monuments in our region, Mount St. Helens lacks the amenities—campgrounds, lodges, cabins and dining—to make it more than a day trip destination. Aging and ill-equipped facilities at the former Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, where MSHI has offered day and overnight outdoor learning programs for a decade, severely limit the number of youth who can access these experiences. Nearby communities are missing out on vital economic growth.  Without renovation, the visitor center will likely be shuttered or torn down and our region will lose an important opportunity to connect with Mount St. Helens.

A three-phase process: To accomplish our goals of expanding educational opportunities, access, and economic development in the region, MSHI has broken the process into three phases. Together, we will:

  • Phase 1: Expand overnight outdoor school by adding new yurt accommodations and staff housing, allowing MSHI to engage 5500 additional youth with overnight experiences; 
  • Phase 2: Create a public campground with 40 RV/tent sites, expected to serve 5,000 visitors annually. Concurrently, we will improve the local hiking and mountain biking trail system that also provides access for fishing, boating and picnicking; and 
  • Phase 3: Remodel the Science and Learning Center to be more sustainable, efficient, and appropriately designed for outdoor education programs.

Through the generous support of partners and donors, MSHI aims to complete the first phase by the end of 2025.

Our Partners: MSHI is the official non-profit partner of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The U.S. Forest Service has granted a 30-year lease permit for MSHI to manage the new center. Educational and recreational programs are offered in collaboration with a number partners, including Cowlitz Indian Tribe; Gifford Pinchot National Forest; US Geological Survey; Washington State Parks; Pacific Northwest Research Station; Washington Trails Association; numerous school districts including Educational Service District 112; and youth-serving organizations throughout Cowlitz, Clark and Lewis counties.

Long-Term Vision for the Mount St. Helens Lodge and Educational Center: 

Once phase 1 construction is complete, future project phases will add overnight lodging, dining and educational spaces. The fully-built Mount St. Helens Lodge and Educational Center will become a destination worthy of the location’s spectacular views, cultural significance and endless educational opportunities. More than 13,000 overnight guests will be welcomed annually. 

Outdoor Classroom: Overnight visits to the volcano are transformative educational, social and emotional experiences for kids. Hands-on learning in nature helps young people see how their classroom learning connects to their lives and futures, which increases student engagement in the classroom. MSHI’s youth education programs—including Volcano Outdoor School and GeoGirls—offer an authentic connection to natural history and science in their backyard and raise career awareness for thousands of youth annually, including low-income and marginalized K-12 students. Once fully realized, the new center will Increase the number of students participating in our outdoor school from 500 to 6,000 annually,

Expanding Outdoor Recreation: Mount St. Helens’ endless recreational options are currently a missed opportunity for exploration. Creating a dedicated welcome center will open the volcano up to the public in a way that it never has been before. Boating, winter recreation and continued trail improvements will allow people of all ages and abilities to experience the volcano.  

Spurring Economic Development: Nearby communities are missing out on vital economic growth. Compared to other national parks and monuments in our region, Mount St. Helens is missing an opportunity for tourism to spark economic growth. As timber towns across the state look for ways to revitalize their economies, tourism has proven to be a promising solution to a prosperous future. The lack of amenities at the volcano hinders the potential for visitor dollars to come to surrounding communities. Economic analysis shows the new center will generate $125 million in increased regional spending over 15 years, and create 80+ local education, tourism and service sector jobs.

For more information please contact Alyssa Hoyt, Strategic Projects Director of the Mount St. Helens Institute.