On the south side of Mt. St. Helen’s sits Ariel, Washington in Cowlitz County, a rural community with abundant recreational and cultural opportunities.
Traveling east from Woodland, Washington, Ariel begins as you reach Lake Merwin, one of three reservoirs created by Pacificorp’s hydroelectric dams on the Lewis River. At Merwin Park families gather to swim and fish and visit the nearby fish hatchery. Ariel store hosts the annual D.B. Cooper Days on the last Saturday of November, with a D.B. Cooper look alike contest.
The Lelooska Cultural Center located on Merwin Village Road, provides educational performances and activities on the Native Peoples of North America. The Lelooska Foundation sponsors living history performances of Northwest Coast masks, dances and stories. The Lelooska Museum houses a diverse collection of Native American art and artifacts from across North America.
As Ariel extends east on Hwy. 503, you enter the Yale Valley, home to Yale Elementary School, one of the rare “Remote but Necessary” schools in the state. Each year in July the Yale Valley Arts Festival takes place at Yale School and the nearby Anderson Lodge. The festival includes a classical concert by Third Angle, art and dance workshops, an oral history night and family arts day.
Anderson Lodge offers visitors a plethora of overnight and event accommodations at their Main Lodge and Hilltop House. Weddings, reunions, and conferences regularly gather here on this quiet side of the mountain, to enjoy the lushly forested accommodations. Cozy cabins nestled in the forest, or on the hilltop can also be enjoyed by couples and families. Both sites offer spacious conference rooms and lush outdoor gathering and dining areas. Here is your chance to explore the many hiking, swimming, boating, hunting, and fishing opportunities that are abundant in and past the Yale Valley at the Merwin, Yale and Swift Reservoirs.
The Yale Valley serves as a gateway to Mt. St. Helen’s for climbers, hikers, and cave explorers. As Ariel continues east on the Hwy. 503 spur, you will come to Cougar, your last stop for 65 miles for permits, gas, groceries, dining and accommodations before you head into Skamania County towards Mt St. Helen’s.