Volcano Outdoor School: Day Trips

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 2018 Volcano Outdoor School Activity Guide.

Popular Options:


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.



  • Each session includes 2 hours of activities and instruction
  • Free admission to Johnston Ridge Observatory before or after your program


2019 prices HERE

Are you interested in staying overnight at the Science & Learning Center but you want to lead some of your own activities and cook your own meals?  You can rent the Science & Learning Center overnight and add on Volcano Outdoor School activities in 2-hour sessions. Email rent@mshinstitute.org to learn more.

Register Your Group

To register, email learn@mshinstitute.org with the following information and we will confirm dates, times and meeting locations, send you a registration form, and happily answer any other questions you may have about Volcano Outdoor School. 

  • Possible field trip dates (Available May 1 – October 31. See calendar for availability.)
  • Student ages
  • Number of students and adults
  • Learning objectives

You can review program policies HERE.

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.


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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