Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
16.20 mi (26.07 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.

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)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Geologically significant

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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

Comments

07/30/2016
Personally, if you want to do a loop trip, I would recommend a clockwise path of travel (starting en route to Mt Margaret and finishing through the lakes trail). This is because there are more exposed sections of the Ridge Trail that are 'uphill', which will feel slightly less intimidating than scrambling down.

One important update that should also be included on the map and in photos (see attached) is a spur trail junction near where Whittier Ridge Trail meets the Lakes Trail. The spur trail junction is a couple hundred yards above the Ridge/Lakes Trail junction in a small talus field. Multiple travelers we encountered continued on the lesser-used spur trail, which is washed out not far away. People were crossing exposed wash-out on fixed lines that were previously placed, which is not recommended. No portion of the Whittier Ridge trail currently requires ropes in good conditions.

Otherwise, the Whittier Ridge Trail is currently free of snow. There's lots of evidence of trail maintenance by the local Mountain Goat population, but not much else.

All in all, this is one of my favorite trails in the Pacific Northwest. The views are abundant, and there are tons and tons of elk and mountain goats that you'll almost certainly encounter along the way. It is, however, important that you trust your footwork and handholds. The two mile stretch is unrelenting from start to finish, so if you feel uncomfortable in a section, you should know it's not going to get any easier for a while.

But for those who go: enjoy the beauty and solitude-- you earned it!
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