Mount St Helens

Cougar, Washington 98616

Mount St Helens

Mount St. Helens Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument regulations apply. Avalanche hazard in spring; bring snowshoes in spring; receding snow on glissade paths expose rock hazards. Permits are required above 4800 feet, but availability is limited from May 15 to October 31; a quota system is in effect with a limit of 100 daily permit holders.

Permits are self-issued from November 1 to March 31, and sold online April 1 to October 31, in advance, on a first-come, first-served basis through the Mount St. Helens Institute. You must sign in and pick up your permit at the climbers’ register at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park or at the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar, Washington. Present your emailed online purchase confirmation when you pick up your permit. Northwest Forest Pass or an equivalent Forest Service recreation pass required for each vehicle parked at the trailhead; you will get a pass for your vehicle when you pick up your permit. A Sno-Park permit is required during the winter season."

More Mount St. Helens Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Day Hiking Mount St. Helens (The Mountaineers Books)
Craig Romano and Aaron Theisen
"Bag a Cascades peak sans rope and harness on this ascent of the most volatile volcano in North America. Its nontechnical nature makes Mount St. Helens perfect for first-time climbers and an annual tradition for seasoned mountaineers."

Mount St. Helens Trip Reports

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We arrived to Marble Mount shortly after 7:00 a.m. The road was not plowed but there was hardly any snow on it.

Quick gear up and we were on our way. We started on snow right from the trailhead but with several groups ahead of us, the trail was packed and had good traction.

The first part of the winter route leading on gentle ski trails was a nice warm up. Once we broke from the trees, that's where the work started. Luckily there were good steps kicked in making the steepest part much easier.

Admiring the beauty of the snow capped mountain, we proceeded up in a steady moderate pace with occasional breaks for photo ops and hydration.

Most of the route was in a great condition with no traction needed to about 6200 ft. That's where the slope got wind blasted and at spots covered with a sheet of ice of which the rays of sunshine reflected and sparkled.

The ice became more serious as we climbed higher, and majority of the upper 800 feet was covered by it. The summit could safely and easily gained with crampons and ice axe, the sound of the ice layer crushing under our feel was a sweet music to our ears.

Needless to say it was scary to see people tiptoeing their way up in Yak Trax supporting themselves by ski poles.

As usually the summit was windy, and man, when the wind picked up, it was strong but despite the wind it was by far the best conditions I ever experienced on this mountain. Unlike the other times I was up here, this time the wind would take an occasional break, and even when wheezing by, it did not blast the typical sandy ash grains into our faces which was very nice and gave us an opportunity to stay at the summit for decent amount of time.

The snow was much softer on our way down. We chose mot to glisade considering the icy sections, and when we got lower, we postholed our way the last mile or so of the ridge back to the ski trails. From there it was a long, but easy stretch back to the snow park.

GPS stats: 10.4 miles, 5746 ft el. gain
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Great hike, completed in 8 hrs roundtrip. Plenty of people throughout trail. Camped the night before and headed out about 8am. Even in good weather it's really important to wear sunscreen, wear long pants (lots of windy areas that blow stinging sand!), wear gators to keep rocks out (last mile of hike is in dusty sand/rocks), bring gloves with grip/traction for climbing over sharp, scratchy lava rocks, hiking poles are not necessary but will save you some pain if your knees hurt going down steep hikes.

Trail is marked by large, visible wooden poles, however there is no REAL trail over the rocky area. You just have to climb over rocks that you can manage in order to reach the next wooden pole on the trail.
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Great climb! The ridge is well marked with posts but stay to the left of the posts, as this is the easiest route and is closer to the actual summit. Try to buy permits as close to the hike as possible. Hiking to the top and not having a view slightly sucks. Bring poles for the way down, and lots of water, seriously you'll need it.
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Great hike! It was a nice sunny day, and the sun was beating down hard. Have lots of water because this is a grueling hike, very deceiving. We backpacked to the timberline and started there in the morning.

Mount St. Helens Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
5,800 feet
Elevation Gain
Skill Level
12 hours
April to June
Additional Use
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters, and Visitor Centers
Local Contacts
USGS Mount St. Helens; Green Trails Mount St. Helens NW 364S, Mount St. Helens 364
Local Maps

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