Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
4,500.00 ft (1,371.60 m)
Trail type
9.00 mi (14.48 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted with a force equivalent to 1,600 World War II atomic bombs. The crater it left in its wake is up to 2 miles wide and 2,100 feet deep. If you want to access the crater’s rim and view the result of the geological event between April 1 and October 31, you must purchase a climbing permit online and in advance from the Mount St. Helens Institute. The number of available permits fluctuates with the season. The access road from Cougar to the Climber’s Bivouac has the highest vehicle access on Mount St. Helens, and at 3,700 feet, weather can keep the road impassable. It is best to check the Mount St. Helens Institute website before your trip. The winter route to the summit leaves from the nearby Marble Mountain Sno-Park and follows the Worm Flows Route.

When it comes to gear to help you with your climb up Monitor Ridge, gaiters help manage the volcanic ash and trekking poles to help with the loose footing. The round-trip climb is approximately 9 miles and involves more than 4,500 feet of elevation gain, so plan on seven hours for fast-paced climbers and up to 12 hours if you prefer a more leisurely pace. If you expect to be on the latter end of that range, renting a room at the Lone Fir Resort or camping at the Climber’s Bivouac can help you get an early start.

No matter how long it takes you to reach the crater, the 360-degree view at the summit is well worth the effort. Looking north over the breached wall of the crater offers a spectacular view of Mount Rainer, while Mount Adams can be seen to the west and Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson to the south. Overall, Mount St. Helens is a climb you don’t want to pass up, and peering across the 2-mile wide crater provides the unique experience of making you feel like an ant on a massive anthill.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Washington Discovery Pass


360-degree view. Volcanic crater. Limited number of hikers.


Obtaining a permit. Limited vehicle access beyond the July to October window.

Trailhead Elevation

3,800.00 ft (1,158.24 m)


Big vistas


Nearby Adventures

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington


Beware the required parking pass for the Mount St. Helen's Hike: Monitor Ridge Route. The Climber's Bivouac trail head is is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (federal land) and I believe a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Interagency pass is required (not the Washington Discover Pass as indicated in this guide at the time of this comment).
Wow, what a hike! Clear skies starting at 2:20am, blizzard conditions for the last 2.5 mile push to the summit. We had a quarter inch of ice accumulation on all our gear! Clouds broke up a bit with 30mph winds just below the summit on the descent, then a steady rain for the bottom two miles. And this was all it late September!

Bring trekking poles, gaitors, and your wind/waterproof gear because the weather is harsh and unpredictable! Also consider starting around 4am or earlier! Of the 100 permitted hikers, 72 signed in at the trailhead this day and we were 4 of the just 18 hikers to summit. We couldn't believe how late everyone had started!
It was such an amazing hike! My tips: Trekking poles are a big help. Bring gardening gloves to help scramble up all the boulders and protect your hands. Definitely bring gaitors. I hiked in shorts and was happy to have brought long gators to protect my shins from rubbing up against rocks and for keeping all the loose gravel out of my shoes.
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