Climbing Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens, which erupted catastrophically in 1980, is still an active volcano in southwest Washington and is the central feature of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Climbing to the crater rim on Mount St. Helens is popular among both beginning and experienced mountaineers. Most climbers use the Monitor Ridge route from Climbers Bivouac. This route gains 4,500 feet in 5 miles to the crater rim at 8,365 feet elevation. Although strenuous, the climb is suitable for people in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling on steep, rugged terrain. Most climbers complete the round trip in 7 to 12 hours.

"While the climb up Monitor Ridge to the summit of Mount St. Helens is not technical, it is a rough scramble much of the way," writes Fred Barstad in A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens. "The weather above timberline is very changeable. It may be warm, clear, and sunny when you leave the trailhead, only tio change into a dust storm of even a blizzard by the time you reach the summit. Rain and snow are normal before late June and possible all summer. During sunny weather these south-facing slopes can be very warm and dry. There is no water along this route after the snow melts. Under these conditions take plenty of water with you. Three quarts is not too much. When the route is snow covered, long slides are possible, so take your ice ax and know how to use it. It is often windy on the summit. The wind picks up fine particles of pumice dust and at times creates minor dust storms. Goggles are almost a necessity under these conditions."

Entry into the crater of Mount St. Helens is strictly prohibited. 

Many facilities and trails at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument are subject to closure during volcanic activity, especially the hike to the crater rim. "Things can change quickly and we are prepared to re-assert closures as necessary. People’s safety is always our top priority,” said Monument Manager Cliff Ligons.

Ligons said safety precautions are in place, including evacuation plans, should volcanic activity warrant. For the latest information about volcanic closures, visit www.fs.fed.us/gpnf.


Climbing Permits are required year-round to climb above 4,800 feet elevation. Each person must display their permit during their climb. For details, click

A weather links web page is available for mountain weather and avalanche forecasts here

A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens
A Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors
Falcon, 2004

Twenty-three trails on Mount St. Helens and the surrounding area are mapped and profiled in this newly published FalconGuide. 

While most of the trails described cross terrain near the volcano and within the boundaries of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, others are distinctive and well worth hiking for reasons unrelated to volcanic activity, like the Woods Creek Watchable Wildlife Loops and the Cedar Flats Nature Loop through an old-growth forest.

Mount St. Helens was a popular hiking area before the 1980 eruption and some trails were unaffected by the blast, but most are new routes blazed in recent years to provide access to geologic features and historic sites.

An excellent resource for any visitor to the Monument, this guide may need frequent updates as the active volcano's terrain-altering behavior continues.

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