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Johnston Ridge Observatory Trailhead

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Johnston Ridge Observatory from the Eruption Trail (bobcat)
Eastbound trailhead at far end of parking lot. (kepPNW)
Off-trail travel is prohibited in the Restricted Area of the blast zone. (kepPNW)


Hikes beginning here

Hikes ending here

Fees and Regulations

  • Pets, bicycles, horses, and off-trail travel are all prohibited in the Restricted Area around JRO.
  • A Monument Pass is a per-person pass good for one day at Johnston Ridge Observatory and Coldwater Lake Recreation Area. They cost $8 for visitors 16 and older, are free for those 15 and under, and may be obtained at JRO. A Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass allows one adult free day use access. You do not need to display the Forest Pass on your car: take it into the visitor center to get a wristband that entitles you to use of the facilities and area trails.

Driving Directions

Drive I-5 north to Exit 49 for Highway 504E, Toutle and Castle Rock.

Turn right after exiting and drive 43.1 miles on 504E through Castle Rock, Silver Lake and Toutle.

At a junction, bear right for Coldwater Lake and Johnston Ridge Observatory. Descend, and follow the highway 8.8 miles as it ascends again to the end of the highway at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Other Notes

  • The observatory is open mid-May until early-November, and is the only source of water.
  • A concessionaire sometimes has a trailer in the parking lot (burgers, coffee, etc.). Otherwise, last store and services available in Toutle.
  • This is definitely not a good place for pets! No shade, very little water, and they're really not allowed outside the parking lot. They'll thank you to be left home for this trip.

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.