Designated a National Scenic Byway, Spirit Lake Memorial Highway takes travelers through land obliterated by the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
The first rough wagon track to Spirit Lake, on the slopes of Mount St Helens, was built early in the century. In the 1930's, a paved road was established to the lake. When the mountain erupted in 1980, the upper end of the highway was completely annihilated, while mud flows ruined miles of roadway below.
In response, the state rebuilt the highway at a cost of $165 million and reopened it in 1992. To avoid the unstable valley floor, the new highway cut high along hillsides, with the highest point at Elk Rock, some 3,800 feet above sea level.
Several visitors centers have been built along the way and more are coming.
The highway begins in Castle Rock as Mt St Helens Way and ends high on Johnston Ridge, providing a striking view of the crater.