cowlitz county tourism
climbing and hiking climbing and hiking climbing and hiking climbing and hiking climbing and hiking

For Novice and Experienced Mountaineers - Click here to jump to the Hiking Section

Climbing Mount St. Helens - Important information is available from the Mount St. Helens Institute

Mount St. Helens is a popular climb for both beginning and experienced mountaineers. Although people are able to climb Mount St. Helens year-round, late spring through early fall is the most popular season.

Climbers must have a permit. It is recommended that reservations be made well in advance. Reservations can be made online through the Mount St. Helens Institute

From April 1 through May 14, a permit is required.

From May 15 through October 31, a permit is required. Only 100 permits are issued per day.

From November 1 through March 31, a permit is required but there is no charge.

Climbers Bivouac can be accessed by taking State Route 503 from Interstate 5 at Woodland.

Most climbers use the Monitor Ridge route from Climbers Bivouac. This route gains 4,500 feet in five miles to the crater rim at 8,365 feet elevation. Although strenuous, this non-technical climb is suitable for people in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling over steep, rugged terrain. Most climbers complete the round trip in seven to twelve hours.


Check the PERMIT SYSTEM for permitted climb dates.

All climbers must register and obtain a climbing permit. 

Weather and Avalanche, Climbers should be prepared for extreme weather and rapidly changing climbing and weather conditions. Please update yourself with the latest avalanche and weather forecasts. Check Here for Weather and Avalanche conditions

Volcanic Activity

Growth of the new lava dome inside the crater of Mount St. Helens is in a pause state. Please note an eruption could intensify suddenly or with little warning and produce explosions that cause hazardous conditions within several miles of the crater and farther downwind.

Climbing an Active Volcano

At 8,328 feet high (as measured by USGS in 2009), Mount St. Helens offers climbers a breathtaking view from the crater rim. Although it is not a technical climb, it is strenuous and hazardous due to ice, large boulders, loose pumice, fast-changing weather and volcanism. Climbers should be in very good physical condition, well equipped, informed about volcanic hazards, and have plenty of water and food.

The Mount St. Helens Institute has partnered with the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to help protect the volcano’s fragile features and to ensure climbers have a safe, low-impact experience on the volcano.

Before climbing Mount St. Helens, please read climbing rules, road and trail conditions, and other important information from the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

If you already climb and hike, you already know about the basic Ten Essentials. Never leave the trailhead without them! Below is a list of Mount St. Helens Climbing Essentials and include the 10 essentials and more. The best thing to do is know your limits and practice good judgment.

All climbers are recommended to carry:

  • Climbing Helmet or Hard Hat - Protect your head in the event of volcanic ballistics or rock fall.

  • Dust Mask (N95 type) - Cover your mouth and nose in the event of ash fall or blowing dust. Dust Masks (N95 type) should be available from any large hardware store.

  • Goggles or Sunglasses with Side Shields, Sunscreen - The Sun reflecting off of snow and ash is intense. Avoid contact lenses, as blowing ash and dust can be a problem. And don't forget a hat.

  • Climbing Boots - Sturdy, comfortable hiking boots (lug soled, waterproof, with angle protection ¾ shank) and gaiters (waterproof to keep rain, snow, ice, ash and pumice out of boots).

  • Map, Compass, Route Markers - Use them to know where you are and where you are going. Be sure to tell someone at home of your plans.

  • First Aid Kit - You may need to come to your own rescue, or help someone else. Be prepared!

  • Knife - Handy for all kinds of purposes, especially the type with extra tools.

  • Extra Food and Water - Bring at least two quarts of water per person. No water is available at Climbers Bivouac or on the climbing route. Carry plenty of food (high energy food recommended) to snack on all day. Reduce packaging to eliminate trash.

  • Extra Clothing - A beautiful sunny morning can turn into a cold rainy afternoon. Plan ahead! Layered clothing including full rain gear, gloves and hat.

  • Layering allows you to adjust your clothing to different exertion levels and weather.

  • Emergency signal device · Emergency Shelter - Yes, you planned to be out on one very long day. Be prepared just in case that longer day turns into something much longer.

  • Head lamp or Flashlight, extra batteries, and bulb - A necessity when the day is short and the trail is long.

  • Be sure to tell a friend or relative where you are going and check in with them you return. Having someone that will notify authorities if you don't return can help get you the assistance you need when you need it most.

  • Trekking poles (recommended), Waterproof matches, lighter or candles

Guided Climbs

We have space on busy weekends. The Mount St. Helens Institute offers guided climbs led by qualified leaders or by geologists who enlighten climbers to the volcano’s dramatic past, recent eruptions, and ongoing volcanism. Read more about the Institute’s guided climbs. For those who desire a geology-focused climb, read more about the “Geology on High” climbs with a geologist.

Registration & Permits

You must register and have a permit to climb Mount St. Helens. Find out how to register. Climbing permits are required year-round above 4,800 feet on Mount St. Helens, and fees vary depending on the season. Find out how to obtain a permit.


Mount St. Helens is not merely a mountain—it is an active volcano. You need to be prepared for extreme weather, possible ash fall, and other hazards. Read about how to prepare for your climb.

Climbers Bivouac

In the summer, climbers usually start their ascent in summer by camping the night before at Climber’s Bivouac. Read more about Climber’s Bivouac and its free Fireside Chats.

Questions? Email the Institute at or call (360) 449-7883.

Cascade Pack & Paddle

For exciting backpacking trips and hiking, checkout Cascade Pack & Paddle, LLC., for guided adventures.



In October 2004, the Washington Trails Association selected eight hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that provide spectacular views of Mount St. Helens. Trail reviews are provided.

Badger Peak Trail: Gifford Pinchot National Forest 10-mile round-trip; elevation gain 1,600 feet with a high point of 5,664 feet. The best spot in the Dark Divide roadless area for dramatic views of Mount St. Helens and the blast zone.

High Rock Trail: Gifford Pinchot National Forest 3-mile round-trip; elevation gain 1,400 feet with a high point of 5,658 feet. A steady climb to a lookout with views of Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens.

Strawberry Mountain Lookout Trail: Gifford Pinchot National Forest .75-mile round-trip; 500 feet elevation gain with a high point of 5,464 feet. Drive most of the way to view the volcano from this awesome lookout sight.

Tongue Mountain Trail: Gifford Pinchot National Forest 3.5 mile-round-trip; elevation gain 1,300 feet with a high point of 4,750 feet. Hike through groves of pine trees to a lookout where Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens are all magnificent on the horizon.

Juniper Ridge Trail: Gifford Pinchot National Forest 8 miles round trip; elevation gain 2,000 feet; high point 5,611 feet. A classic hike with dramatic views of volcanoes and the Cispus River below.

Sunrise Peak Trail to Jumbo's Shoulder: Gifford Pinchot National Forest 7-mile round-trip; elevation gain 2,000 feet with a high point of 5,500 feet. This steep trail takes you through fall-foliage meadows to a view of the volcano.

Hamilton Butte Trail: Gifford Pinchot National Forest 1.5 mile-round-trip; 900 feet elevation gain with a high point of 5,772 feet. This area was buried in pumice when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. A great short hike.

Guided Hikes

Guided hikes are often a great way to go, especially when you're not familiar with the areas. Checkout Cascade Pack and Paddle, LLC to experience the beauty offered in Cowlitz County!


  icon iconeco Copyright 2017 - Cowlitz County Tourism - All Rights Reserved