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Pets allowed
No
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
16.20 mi (26.07 km)
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Incredible scenery, wildlife, no crowds.

Cons

Very difficult, exposure to falls, not maintained.

Trailhead Elevation

3,740.00 ft (1,139.95 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,060.00 ft (627.89 m)

Address

NF-26
Cougar, WA 98616
United States

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Geologically significant

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington
Washington, Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks

Comments

10.20.18
Debated between CW vs CCW but ultimately decided on a clockwise loop. I agree this probably makes it a little easier as you're scrambling up more than down plus I think you get more afternoon shade. There are reliable water sources at Bear Camp, Panhandle Lake, Obscurity Lake, and Grizzly Lake. I think we saw more mountain goats than people. Got very lucky and couldn't have asked for better weather that day. (We attempted it in Sept 2017 but got turned around by 10" of fresh snow...)
01.06.17
Three comments: I would not advice this hike till late July or (better) August. I have had serious problems with snow on the southern end of the ridge as late as July 25. So the "summer" season indication may be misleading. Secondly, the map(s) shown here indicate the trail alignment of the old washed out trail going up the northern end of the ridge; the current trail ascends entirely on the east side to the ridge. Thirdly, personally I prefer the CCW direction if looping from Norway Pass, as you then have an easy return after the traverse.
Thanks for the details about the spur trail, Andrew! I've updated the map to reflect that washed out trail, which should clarify the junction for future hikers.
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