Volcano Outdoor School: Day Trips

Like many organizations and businesses, we've had to adapt quickly and make tough decisions. Volcano Outdoor School programs may be available starting in the summer of 2021.

You can read more about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Bring your class or youth group to explore the mountain with the Mount St. Helens Institute’s Volcano Outdoor School. Come face-to-face with geologic forces and discover the amazing stories of plant and animal life in the heart of the Mount St. Helens blast zone.

If you are also planning on visiting Johnston Ridge Observatory during your trip, please register your group at Teacher's Corner.  Registration is free but required.






Activities selected for each Volcano Outdoor School program are selected based on the group’s learning objectives and needs.  Please communicate your learning objectives with a Mount St. Helens Institute staff member at learn@mshinstitute.org.

Click HERE to view our Volcano Outdoor School Activity Guide.


Science & Learning Center

  • The SLC is a re-purposed visitor center in the heart of the blast zone and just 10 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory.
  • Site is wheel-chair accessible.
  • Learn more about the facilities at the SLC here
  • View location of SLC in Google Maps.

Hummocks Trail

  • Some Volcano Outdoor School programs include a guided hike on the Hummocks Trail.
  • The Hummocks are the landforms which formed during the 1980 eruption as the top of Mount St. Helens fell apart in a giant landslide the pieces of the old mountaintop slowed and stopped downvalley. The Hummocks Trail is a 2.7 mile loop trail which winds up and down through the hummocks, passing habitat which established after the 1980 eruption.
  • The Hummocks Trail parking lot is about a 10-minute drive from the Science & Learning Center.
  • View location of Hummocks Trail in Google Maps.

Coldwater Lake

  • Some Volcano Outdoor School programs include a visit to Coldwater Lake to eat lunch, conduct an aquatic study, or otherwise explore this incredible lake which formed as a result of the 1980 eruption.
  • Coldwater Lake sits in the valley adjacent to the Science & Learning Center. The Coldwater Lake vicinity includes a picnic area, restrooms, and the 0.6 mile interpretive “Birth of a Lake” boardwalk trail.
  • Coldwater Lake is about a 10-minute drive from the Science & Learning Center.
  • View location of the Coldwater Lake Picnic Area in Google Maps.

Register Your Group

To begin registration, complete this non-binding INQUIRY FORM.  After you complete the form, Mount St. Helens Institute staff will reach out to you.

Program Availability

A list of available dates is HERE.  Please note that these dates are subject to group size and staff availability.


$8/person/hour.  Some financial assistance is available for low-income groups. 


You can review program policies HERE.  Additionally, in 2021 youth groups must comply with MSHI's COVID Safety Guidance for Youth Programs and Science and Learning Center Rentals.  

Prepare for Your Trip


Group Coordinator

Coordinator Guide: All the information you need to plan your trip in one document. 

Teacher's Corner: Register your group's visit to Johnston Ridge Observatory before or after your program.  Note: Currently Johnston Ridge Observatory is not open.


Chaperone Letter


Parent/Guardian Letter


Packing List

Code of Conduct

Weather Forecast

Driving Directions: Contact learn@mshinstitute.org for instructions on how to open the gate to the Science and Learning Center.


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