Johnston Ridge Observatory & McKenna Loop

Trip Date: 6-1-2009


  • SR 505
  • SR 504
  • Toledo
  • Kid Valley
  • 28 Foot Concrete Big Foot (Kid Valley)
  • Buried A Frame next to Big Foot
  • Toutle River
  • Toutle River Bridge Span
  • Eco Park Resort
  • Helicopter Tours (Eco Park Resort)
  • Horseback Tours (Eco Park Resort)
  • Elk Rock View Point
  • Coldwater Lake
  • Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center
  • MT. ST. Helens
  • MT. Adams
  • MT ST Helens National Monument
  • Johnston Ridge Observatory
  • ST Helen's Lake
  • Spirit Lake
  • Road Side Falls
  • Centralia
  • Bucoda
  • Tenino
  • McKenna


  • Allot of tar patches SR 504 past Kid Valley
    So bad your tires will push out - Warning!
  • Falling Rock
  • Deer

Johnston Ridge Observatory Ride
MT. ST. Helens WA

16:9 Widescreen (400Kbps 19.0 MB)

Trip Details:

10:30 PM the night prior I was digging the sunny weather enough to decide to take advantage of time off I have accumulated at work. I logged on to Facebook and sent a chat message to another rider and set the hook to real him in for an amazing ride to the Johnston Ridge Observatory over looking MT. ST. Helens. My ride partner for this ride was Doug Cushing from Vancouver. Doug is the owner operator of Northwest Motorcycle Adventures. If your from out of state and are looking for a great package on bikes and gear Doug has a great service offering. His fleet consists entirely of Suzuki V-Strroms. This allows him to greatly reduce costs and keep necessary parts on hand to keep his fleet in top mechanical condition.

I woke at 6:30 AM and was on the road by 8:30 AM. The first 77 miles was a straight shot up I-5 to exit 63 where I fueled up at the Shell station. This is the turn off to hwy 505 that runs through Cowlitz and Toledo. After fueling my wing and picking up a ice gold bottle of lemon tea I was ready to proceed. The next 16.5 miles of road were very relaxing with some nice sweeping turns and long straights. Once I came up on the hwy 504 junction I could see Doug standing next to his Suzuki V-Strom. This was my first time riding with Doug and meeting him for that matter. We jacked jaws for about 20 minutes or so before hitting the 504 asphalt. The sun was out and the temp was climbing. We couldn't have picked a better day for this ride. Today I'm making a point to take my time and enjoy the scenery as rides like this one don't come too often. I should also point out that The Shell station at Exit 63 is a great place for fuel. I don't remember another station on the way up. There may have been one past Kid Valley. I would hit the Shell. Once on 504 it was a short 3.5 miles to Kid Valley. Slow down in this area. They sealed the cracks in the road surface with tar. There are allot of tar patches that cause your front end to push out and in some cases could cause a wobble. The other reason to slow down is around the turn there is buried A-Frame that was partials covered in mud from the eruption. This was ok but the real attraction here is a 28 foot concrete big Foot statue. This is a must see and a great opportunity to snap some pictures. And that is exactly what we did. Doug commented on the fact he has ridden by here many times and had not seen the Big Foot. this is why on this ride I suggest you take your time and actually look for scenic stuff. There is a ton of sites, view points etc to be enjoyed on this ride. you don't want to miss out if you can help it.

MT ST. Helen's Johnston Ridge observatory Big Foot Kid Valley A Frame Volcano Monument Road-Quest.comFrom kid Valley to the Johnston Ridge Observatory is just over 31 miles. I'm talking 31 miles of motorcycle road bliss! It's the perfect mix of straights, sweepers, twisties and an occasional hairpin. I couldn't count the number of turns that produced a breathe taking view of the mountain in all it's glory. There are a couple straight sections of road that appear as if you are riding straight into the crater. It's said that once one has ridden both sides (Wind Ridge & Johnston Ridge) you have ridden the two best rides in the Northwest. In 2007 I rode Johnston Ridge on a Saturday and Windy Ridge Sunday. It just doesn't get any better. The only thing missing in the last year and a half is the activity from the Volcano has diminished. I have photos of steam plumes from many trips up and we didn't see any this time.

MT. ST. Helen's Volcano Monument Crater Active Volcano Washington WA Johnston Ridge Observatory Windy Ridge and Spirit Lake. Northwest Motorcycle Adventures Oregon.As we rode on we took advantage of the view points. In fact at the view point with the park sign we ran into the sport bike riders Raul and Scott that we followed up. They were two young guys from Alberta Canada I believe. They came to Washington to ride the roads our state is know all over for. We take our roads and destinations for granite some times as we are just used to riding them. To folks from out of state they are often looked as the best road riding they have ever encountered bar none. The two riders were low on fuel as they missed the last chance for gas sign so they headed back for fuel. It was getting hot and we snapped a few pictures and head up the grade. After several opportunities for photos and some of awesome sweepers and twisies we soon entered the blast zone. To put things into perspective, the mountain erupted May 18th, 1980. That was 29 years ago and to this day there is very little vegetation growing in the blast zone. Soon after entering the blast zone we entered the Johnston Ridge observatory. For those of you who do not know the story behind the name of the observatory I do my best. Due to seismic activity on the mountain scientists were closely monitoring the activity. They were primarily based out of Vancouver. Volcanologist David Johnston was filling in for another who had to leave and he was at his camp on Coldwater Ridge a few miles north of Mt. St. Helens. At 8:32 a.m., Vancouver station received a radio transition from him  and seconds later the mountain erupted killing Johnston and 56 others in the area. For more info click here. WA motorcycle rides roads MT St. Helen's Volcano Johnston Ridge Observatory WashingtonThe observatory consists of a building that houses some artifacts and a scale down model equipped with lights to demonstrate the sequence of events during the blast. There is a cinema room where you get to sit in a comfortable chair and watch a short movie on the eruption and the mountain.  The show is short but full of interesting facts. Once the show is over the screen pulls up and the red back drop of curtains retract to each side revealing a huge picture window with an incredible view directly into the creator.  If you have not seen this I highly recommend it. In fact as we were snapping photos the two Canadian riders showed up and we convinced them to see the show. We talked a bit with them then they had to get in to see the show. We headed back to our bikes, geared up and headed down the ridge. The ride down was nice as well. We still had nice scenery with views of the crater but they were only a few as the mountain began to duck behind us. By now our belly buttons were touching our back bones (yeah right!) and we were ready to eat.

Eco Park Resort Hard Woods Cafe Helicopter Tours MT. ST. Helen's Volcano Monument Crater Active Volcano Washington WA Johnston Ridge Observatory Windy Ridge and Spirit Lake. Northwest Motorcycle Adventures Oregon.If your looking to eat on the way up or down look no further then mile post 24. There is a Tall narrow sign for the Eco Park Resort. Be careful turning in as the drive way slopes down and is gravel and dirt. Its not too bad at all as I had no problem maneuvering my Goldwing to a parking spot.  I was surprised to see a helicopter service in the same lot. To my right was a Helicopter and to my left was the Back Woods Cafe as I faced south. As we removed our gear to cool off we were approached by one of the pilots who too is a rider. He introduced us to Mark Smith one of the owners. Mark was a very pleasant man and we enjoyed his company. We both ordered the 1/2 pound bacon cheese burger and it did not disappoint! This was an old school burger with a thick juicy patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, coarsely chopped onion and yes! Special sauce! It's going on my burger page. The juice ran down to my wrist and that gets extra points. As we were finishing up with our meal guess who road in. Raul and Scott the Canadian riders. We invited them to our table Helicopter Tours MT. ST. Helen's Volcano Monument Crater Active Volcano Washington WA Johnston Ridge Observatory Windy Ridge and Spirit Lake. Northwest Motorcycle Adventures Oregon.and had some great conversation. They were hungry as well and had the steak sandwiches. This is a biker friendly place with allot of seating room for people in doors and some out doors. The place is rustic inside with elk and deer mounts on the walls along with old chain saws and other assorted saw blades used by the lumber industry in the old days. One thing about the Eco Park Resort is the entire lower park is run off of solar panels and batteries. Definitely worth a stop. If your from out of state $149 (subject to change or my mistakes) is well worth it to get a helicopter tour of the crater and blast area up close. I plan on calling mark and arranging a tour for myself. They also have horseback tours, cabins, RV & tent sites.

It was getting late in the day and we both had some riding left to do. we said our goodbyes and headed back down hwy 504 to the hwy 505 junction where we first met up. We shook hands and parted ways. Doug's trip was back to Vancouver and mine Tacoma. I fueled at Shell and on the low an behold at the freeway entrance were Raul and Scott. They ended up riding with me for about 13 miles. That is where they decided to super slab it to Seattle and me, I cringe at a long ride on I-5 so I rode hwy 507 through Centralia, Tenino and  Bucoda which had some pretty nice sweeping turns and scenery. I followed hwy 507 through Rainier, Yelm, and Mckenna home of the Bunckhouse BBQ, As much as I wanted to stop for one of the best burgers in Washington or the awesome beef brisket sandwich, i just did not have the room. I passed it and rode on through Roy and on to Tacoma. Round trip for me was 280 miles and as I stated earlier, I couldn't have picked a better day or a better ride. This entire day is what riding is all about for me. I say it all on my main page of this site.

It's not the destination that makes the ride. It's the roads ridden, people you meet and burgers you eat to get there!

Eco Park Resort Hard Woods Cafe Helicopter Tours MT. ST. Helen's Volcano Monument Crater Active Volcano Washington WA Johnston Ridge Observatory Windy Ridge and Spirit Lake. Northwest Motorcycle Adventures Oregon.
Eco Park Resort
Mile marker 24 on SR 504
Toutle, WA 98649
360-274-7007 or 274-6542
Mark & Dawn Smith

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