Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
Trail type
9.00 mi (14.48 km)
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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)

Net Elevation Gain

4,500.00 ft (1,371.60 m)


Big vistas


Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

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

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks, Washington
Washington, Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks


In my opinion, the best time to climb St. Helens is during a weekday in the early fall. Permits are rarely sold out, so you can pick them up same day - which helps greatly to determine last-minute what day will be best for clear skies. With no snow and good weather conditions, a fast-paced climber/hiker can go from trailhead to summit in about 3 hours and descend from summit to climber's bivouac in about 2 hours.
The road to the Climber Bivouac opened on 5/29/14. The road and most the camp sites are free of snow, however there are patches of snow on the trail right from the start. We camped out at the trailhead and left before 6am knowing the snow was going to get really soft. Around treeline there is snow the rest of the way. You could scramble on the ridge for a majority of the climb if you so desired but the snow travel was much more efficient. It was not cold enough to require crampons and they would have been a hindrance in the soft snow. We brought snowshoes but only a few people ended up using them. The glisade allows you to descend all the way back to treeline. 9 hour day with 10 people.
Awesome ski tour considering the terrible conditions. We took 4 hrs from the car to summit, and it could have all been done in boots. But the skis were nice for the way down.
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