Seaquest State Park: Castle Rock, Washington

http://www.parks.wa.gov/581/Seaquest

Just off I-5, an hour north of Portland, lies Mount St Helens, one of the “Ring of Fire” volcanoes that line the Pacific coastline.  Us old timers remember the 1980 explosion so it seamed like an interesting place for one of our first family camping trips, back in 2004.  We were not disappointed.

mt st helensmt st helens post

Here is my advice for this campground

  • Recommended Sites:
    • There are different loops available for RVs, regular trailers, and tents.  We stayed in our tent trailer in the North Loop.  There were tall trees that shaded the area.  Don’t expect sunshine.  It rained for part of the time so we tarped well as is the norm in British Columbia’s coastal mountain campgrounds; we sure got a lot of people looking at our site in amazement.  Turned out there wasn’t very much rain and a lot of it was sheltered by those big fir trees, so you probably don’t need to worry as much as we did.
    • 2004 was pre-blogs so I didn’t take specific site notes to share with you.
SCAN0082

Salamander in the campground. Visitor Center helicopter display.

  • Campground Highlights
    1. Very private, woodsy sites
    2. Lots of unique things to do in this state park.  The Visitors Center is within walking distance.  Other activities require a vehicle, preferably truck-only with the trailer staying in your campsite.
  • Campground Lowlight
    1. Mosquitoes
    2. Damp
  • Things to do
    1. Hike
    2. Canoe or kayak on Silver Lake
    3. But most of all, anything related to the volcano!  That’s why you’ve come here

Our trip

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Visitor Center

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Inside

We were with a 6 and 7 year old.

  1. After a 4 hr drive from the Vancouver area, we  stopped at Castle Rock’s “Cinedome‘ to see an IMAX movie of the 1980 explosion.   The theater seats were made to  shake during the climax.   Sadly, the Cinemax is closed now.  Maybe Mt St Helens needs to erupt again to renew ticket buying interest?
  2. Shortly afterwards we checked in, set up camp, and walked over to the Visitor Center.   That beautiful building has displays & videos that explain the mountain’s various eruptions.
  3. Afterwards we drove a long and winding hour up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This national monument is a great vantage point to view the blown out crater.  All the blown down trees were a famous image post-eruption so it was fascinating to see the same crater but with fresh, 20 year old trees (they’d be 35 now.)
  4. The next day we drove 1.5 hrs around to the south side of the mountain to explore “Ape Cave.”   This was one of my favorite parts of the park visit.  You need to get two light sources, in case one goes out, and then descend into what looks to be a big subway tunnel.  It is actually a lava tube from thousands of years ago.  The soft lava rock has since crumbled leaving a cold & dark hiking tunnel. Better than Craters Of The Moon national monument‘s hike.    There are no apes though; they’re named after ” The Apes”, a Boy Scout troop who discovered the caves back in the 1950s.  Mind you, their name originated from local Bigfoot stories so you never know what you might bump into in the dark.

For all those reasons, put Mt St Helens on your camping trip list.

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10 thoughts on “Seaquest State Park: Castle Rock, Washington

  1. This is a part of the U.S. I would like to spend more time in! I was out in Tacoma for work a few years ago a few times, but I never got to explore. My Pacific Northwest camping time has been in Oregon for the most part.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am old enough to remember the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I was on Bainbridge island that day – May 18, 1980. Thanks for the post, Seaquest is on the BF and my list of state parks to hit [there is a Washington State Parks Geocache there]. I heard about the Ape Cave this past weekend when we were camping at Rainbow Falls State Park.

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    • When we talk to our kids about the eruption you would think we were talking about another planet. They cannot even imagine the impact that had on the entire area. It is too bad the imax is. O longer there, it was amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like a great trip. I appreciate your details. Gives me a chance to “vacation” behind my computer simply reading your stories and viewing the pictures. Also acts to inspire a west bound trip from North Carolina. Keep the stories coming! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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