State Route 504 - Spirit Lake Memorial Highway

Beautiful views around every cornerIf smooth, fast sweepers are your cup of tea, Johnston Ridge is for you. This recently completed highway has fantastic pavement and a bare landscape left over from the Mt. St. Helens eruption means great visibility though the corners and few debris. The only downside to this road is ends to quickly, with few corners that require a speed under 70mph the 30 miles to the visitor center will fly by.

The ride begins in Toutle, WA. There's about nothing there except for two gas stations (and only one has premium) and a couple small restaurants, Betty's Place is the best to grab lunch. Take it easy heading out of Toutle, law enforcement often is near the town but usually the highway itself is clear. It doesn't take long to get to the corners, make sure the tires are warm and let it rip! There are two small towns you'll pass through a just few minutes after leaving Toutle where you will want to slow down but other then that the road is open, grippy and smooth.

Views of the road winding back on itself.

Weekends will bring heavier traffic but arriving in the morning means you will have the road mostly to yourself. Even if you do get caught behind cars there is plenty of room to pass. Few of the corners are blind and there are decent passing lanes.

Once past the small towns the road is an unrelenting pattern of fast sweepers and faster sweepers. The road is still fairly new and the pavement is in fantastic shape.

Pavement is excellent all the way up. If you can manage to slow down long enough to take your eyes off the road the views are fantastic. The road twists through young forest only just starting to grow after being devestated by the eruption of St. Helens. Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams are in front of you throughout the ride, steadily growing larger. Towards the end of 504 the crater of Mt. St. Helens opens up before you as you get to the top of the ridge. On some days you can see steam rising from the vents relieving the pressure pushing up the growing dome.

The road ends at the Johnston Ridge Observatory which has awesome views of the crater being barely over 5 miles away. Should you care to take the time the observatory houses several exhibits about the eruption, but that is best saved for a rainy day, there is more riding to do! The temperatures can be cool up there so give your tires a few minutes to warm up before you hit it hard.

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