Two serene towns connected by a bridge provide the ideal base for exploring Mount St. Helens and other outdoor highlights of this scenic part of Washington State.
Kelso and Longview are two quiet, friendly towns divided by the winding Cowlitz River. Stay in one of these charming towns to be ideally placed for hiking the picturesque trails of Mount St. Helens, fishing in rich waters and enjoying a wide array of welcoming small-town attractions.
Look for signs of the area’s Scottish roots as you explore. Visit pretty Tam O’Shanter Park, named after a poem by Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. Come here in September to see adults and kids alike don kilts for the annual Highlander Festival. Watch participants in the Highland Games compete in traditional sports, and sample Scottish treats such as scones.
To see another side to the area’s history, head to the Cowlitz County Museum, which offers exhibits dating back to the early pioneer days. In the evening, see a show at the Columbia Theatre in Longview. This carefully restored building is a work of art in itself, and an important artifact of local history.
Bring your hiking boots when you come to Kelso and Longview, as the local trails are among the area’s greatest charms. Drive the beautiful road to Mount St. Helens, a major draw of the area. The dramatic silhouette of this volcano dominates the landscape for miles around. Pack a picnic and explore its slopes at your own pace, or join an expert-guided tour that will take you all the way into the crater.
Head deep underground by entering the nearby Ape Cave Lava Tubes, dramatic natural tunnels that no-one with a taste for adventure will be able to resist. Back in town, set up for a day of fishing at a peaceful spot by the edge of Cowlitz River or at gorgeous Lake Sacajawea. Or, head to Longview’s Mint Valley Golf Course to play a few rounds amid beautiful scenery.
Drive to Kelso and Longview from Seattle in around 2 hours. As you approach, enjoy glorious views of the Cowlitz River, which flows parallel to parts of the road.