Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
12.00 mi (19.31 km)
Warming hut
No
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The winter season offers a perfect opportunity to experience Mount St. Helens. Although the winter route is longer than the summer route, the mountain's dusty, rocky flanks are covered with snow. And since the climb is longer and more challenging, there are typically fewer people on the mountain. Between November 1 and March 31, climbing permits are free and unlimited in number. Permits are self-service, and they can be obtained at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park.

The Worm Flows route is popular with experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders, but it is very accessible to hikers and snowshoers, too. Depending on snow conditions, climbers may use a combination of bare boots, snowshoes, crampons, and other traction devices to aid in the climb. On the way down, an ice ax is essential gear to control your long glissades down the snowy slopes. It's slower than skiing, but it sure beats walking down.

On the way up the mountain, follow the well-marked climbing route to tree line. Pay close attention to spot the 90-degree left turn that crosses above Chocolate Falls. From there, the route roughly follows the sinuous, rocky ridges to the upper snowfields below the crater. Look back frequently to memorize the route, since the occasional pole markers are very hard to see from a distance or in bad weather. It's advisable to bring a map, a compass, and a GPS to ensure a safe return.

At the summit, carefully approach the crater rim. Huge snow cornices form during the winter, and some of these cornices lean out over the rocky cliffs. Stay back from the edge. Accidents are rare, but some climbers have underestimated the size of the cornices and subsequently fallen into the crater. Looking down, you can see the dramatic evidence of the 1980 eruption and the lava dome growth that has occurred since then. In the distance, views from Spirit Lake north to Mount Rainier and beyond provide ample rewards for the strenuous trek up the mountain.

Recommended Gear

Before you head out on your next Mount Hood adventure, make sure you have the right gear! 

Here's a list of our go-to snowshoeing essentials to get you started:

Snowshoes: MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoe

Cushioned, Made in USA, Ultralight, 98.8 oz

Men's • $299.95 • MSR | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's • $299.95 • MSR | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Jacket/Shell: Arc'teryx Zeta AR Jacket

Waterproof, Adjustable Drawcord Hem, Pit Zips, GORE-TEX

Men's • $431-475 • Arc'teryx | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $475 • Arc'teryx | Amazon | Backcountry

Pack: Mammut Nirvana Pro Pack 

35L, Carry-On Size, Hip Belt, Ice Axe / Pole Loops, Hydration Compatible

Standard Fit • $189.95-199.95 • Mammut | Amazon | Backcountry

Small Fit • $199.95 • Mammut | Amazon

Insulating Layer: Moosejaw Dequindre Down Jacket

Water-resistant, Insulated, Adjustable Drawcord Hem

Men's and Women's • $179

Poles: Black Diamond Traverse Pole 

Aluminum, Adjustable with Lever Lock System, 21 oz.

$79.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Gloves: The North Face GORE-TEX Gloves

Waterproof, Adjustable, Insulated, GORE-TEX

Men's • $99.95-181.63 • The North Face | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $99.95-100.00 • The North Face | Backcountry

Boots: Vasque Snowblime UltraDry Boot

Waterproof, Cushioned, Insulated

Men's • $149.99 • Vasque | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $149.99 • Vasque | Amazon | Backcountry

Gaiters: Outdoor Research Verglas Gaiter 

Waterproof, Breathable, Lightweight, Abrasion-resistant

Men's • $41.32-65 • Outdoor Research | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's • $49.95-65 • Outdoor Research | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Sno-Park Parking Permit (required in OR + WA 11.01 thru 04.30)

Pros

Unique view into the volcano. Excellent introduction to winter mountaineeriing. Fun glissading.

Cons

Potential for bad weather and snow conditions.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

3,360.00 ft (1,024.13 m)

Net Elevation Gain

5,000.00 ft (1,524.00 m)

Features

Big vistas
Cross-country skiing

Typically multi-day

No

Groomed trail

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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

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