The Mount Margaret backcountry offers some unique opportunities to view a young Northwest forest in a stage of regrowth. This area was devastated by the pyroclastic blast when Mount St. Helens erupted in May, 1980; the destructive cloud leveled all trees and foliage in the area and dramatically changed the landscape. The Whittier Ridge Trail follows a sharp ridge within this destruction zone and offers outstanding views of the area, but it is much more challenging than the neighboring Mount Margaret summit.
Whittier Ridge is a 2-mile section of unmaintained ridge trail that spans between Mount Margaret and the Mount Margaret Backcountry Lakes. A loop can be created using Whittier Ridge as the connector, though the loop is a strenuous 14.2 miles with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Due to the close proximity to the Mount Margaret summit, it is convenient to combine the two in a single trip. The entire trip can be completed in a long day trip or with an overnight stay at some of the backcountry lake camp sites. These permits must be reserved in advance.
From the Mount Margaret via Norway Pass Trail, follow signage to the right that indicates the start of Whittier Ridge Trail. The signage here indicates the "Most Difficult" trail rating, which convinces most hikers to turn back. This alert is to be respected, but with careful navigation and sure-footedness this trail will reward visitors with some of the best views in the region.
Due to the remote access, wildlife is abundant in the area. Deer and elk can be seen in the surrounding meadows, and mountain goats are visible on the ridge. Be careful not to surprise wildlife that may be on trail.
The trail itself follows the spine of the ridge. When trail conditions prove difficult to follow, the answer is often to look up. Although no rated climbing is required, some small scrambling and traversing across narrow ledges is required.