Get ready to explore Mount St.
Helens in this compact Washington town.
The gateway to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Castle Rock is a small community offering basic amenities for road-tripping travelers, including a handful of gas stations, a supermarket, and a small smattering of restaurants. It's worthwhile stopping here if you want to get a feel for the area or ask local residents for insider tips about where to hike and what to see, but it's not the best place for camping. Instead, you'll want to head out to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest or the nearby Seaquest State Park, or check out one of the many private options along State Highway 504.
Just outside of Castle Rock, Seaquest State Park is a popular spot for summertime swimming, fishing, camping, and hiking, with seven miles of hiking trails, including a mile of ADA-accessible trails. It's a fantastic place for RV camping and tent camping alike, with a dump station, fire rings, and picnic tables.
If you're visiting Castle Rock, the chances are good that you also plan to spend a bit of time at Mount St. Helens nearby. There's a lot to do on the mountain, from learning about its famous 1980 eruption at the visitor center at Silver Lake to exploring the Ape Cave, a lava cave extending around 2.5 miles.
One of the oldest designated national forests in the United States, Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers no shortage of things to do and spots to camp. The forest stretches out over 1.32 million acres and has roughly 100 lakes and over 1,200 miles of trails and a mix of both campgrounds and backcountry camping opportunities.
Summer is the best time to visit Castle Rock. This season is usually hot and dry, and temperatures stay toasty well into September, making it an ideal month for camping without the summer vacation crowds. If you plan to climb Mount St. Helens, you're best off visiting in the summer or in late spring or early fall, when the conditions are ideal. Just be aware that you'll need a permit if you're visiting between April and October.