Photos: 40 Years of Recovery on Mount St. Helens

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted with the force of two atom bombs.

By: Jonathan Stull + Save to a List

The eruption caused $2.7 billion in damages and claimed 57 lives, forever marring the volcano's northern flank and creating a volcanic moonscape that is still recovering today. A landmark event in volcanology, the eruption of Mount St. Helens also created one of the world's most recognizable volcanos, and hundreds of thousands visit the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument annually.

These photos show that recovery is a centuries-long process, and Mount St. Helens will never be the same. But it will always be a haven for adventurers who want to see the cycles of life unfold on a seismic scale.

The moodiest of Cascade volcanoes, pictured from Coldwater Peak. Photo by Matt Klemsz.

The Mount St. Helens crater from the summit rim. Photo by Matt Klemsz.

The eruption practically leveled the volcano's northern aspect, shown here. Photo by Isaac Desautels

The southeast aspect at Ape Canyon hides the full impact of the eruption. Photo by Matt Klemsz.

Evidence of the eruption isn't going anywhere. Downed trees still float on Spirit Lake. Photo by Sarah Horn.

Spirit Lake's floating remnants from Coldwater Peak. Photo by Matt Klemsz.

The crater from Johnston Ridge. Photo by Jess Fischer.

The southern aspect of Mount St. Helens from Ape Caves. Photo by Mitch Pittman.

Stars above Mount St. Helens at Lewitt Viewpoint. Photo by Matt Klemsz.

Mount St. Helens from Mount Margaret. Photo by Andy Best.

Mount St. Helens, seen from Hummocks Trail, shakes off the morning mist as if a post-eruption aura. Photo by Rick Goble.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Overnighter on the Sonoma Coast

Benjamin Canevari

10 Things you need to do in Baja

wyld honeys

Journey to Wyoming’s premier snowmobiling destination: Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Samuel Brockway

Hiking in comfort: a review of Danner Mountain 600 Evo boots

Meghan White