The best way to experience the mountain is to spend a full day, or more, driving east on highway 504, stopping at visitor centers, trails, and view points along the way. The extent of the devastation - obvious even three decades after the 1980 eruption - unfolds with each mile. Yet you will also see nature's amazing recovery, plants and animals of all kinds.
If you only have a short time to spend on your Mount St. Helens visit, the visitor center at Silver Lake is located just off Interstate 5 and offers excellent exhibits and a moving film. If you have time to drive all the way in, but can only stop at a single visitor center, choose the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Both offer stunning views into the volcano's crater.
Note: Volcano viewing is highly dependent on the weather. However, if visibility does not allow a view of Mount St. Helens itself, spending time in the blast zone, visiting the centers, and hiking along interpretive trails is still an experience of a lifetime.