Climbing Mount St. Helens

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Best known as the site of the enormous 1980 volcanic eruption, Mount St. Helens offers a variety of recreation opportunities, including the chance to climb to the summit of the most active volcano in the Cascade Range.  Starting in lush Pacific Northwest forests, the route rises above the treeline, scrambles across volcanic boulder fields, and reaches the crater rim with a 360 degree view of the region.

Summiting the Most Active Volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range

Mount St. Helens was once the fifth highest peak in Washington State, rising over 9,600 feet (3,000 m) above sea level. The mountain was a beautiful example of a symmetrical stratovolcano and was often referred to as the Mount Fuji of America. On May 18, 1980 a powerful volcanic eruption and the largest landslide in recorded history eliminated the top 1,300 feet (396 m) of the mountain, leaving a large horseshoe-shaped crater and devastating nearly 230 square miles (595 km²) of surrounding forest. 

Today, Mount St. Helens offers a unique opportunity for climbers to view the devastating effects of the eruption and the continuing recovery of the landscape. Although not considered a technical climb, fields of snow, large boulder piles, loose ash and pumice, and quickly changing weather can make reaching the summit a challenge. Climbers should be in very good physical condition, well-equipped with appropriate gear, informed about possible volcanic hazards, and carry plenty of water and food.

Dusk falls on a snow-covered Mount St. Helens (USFS)

Mount St. Helens (USFS)

In an effort to reduce crowding and protect natural features, the number of climbers per day on Mount St. Helens is limited from April 1 to October 31. Climbing permits for the limited use season are available online for advanced reservations beginning March 18, 2019.

Once on the summit, take-in the surrounding volcanic features and landscapes that make up the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, including:

For more information about the volcanic history and current scientific monitoring of the area, visit the Cascades Volcano Observatory website. 

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