There are few volcanoes that a hiker can summit and peer over the rim into the caldera to view a growing glacier and steam rising from a moonscape of vents. The view from the summit of Washington state’s Mount St. Helens offers a new appreciation for the power of Nature and the sheer size of the volcano’s blast zone. On clear days, the Cascade Range giants of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are visible for much of the hike, while Mt. Rainier appears as hikers ascend the final few feet.
Summiting Mount St. Helens doesn’t require technical expertise, making it a popular day hike. Nonetheless, the 10-mile roundtrip trek is difficult and gains roughly 4,500 feet in elevation. And the effort is well worth it.
Summer is perfect for warmer hikes and for those who would rather not hike through spring snow. The number of hikers allowed to summit the volcano is controlled to protect the fragile ecosystem. Permits are required May through October and sell out fast; purchase permits when they go on sale in early February. Visit mshi.recaccess.com for more information.
The climb starts 30 minutes outside of Cougar, Washington, at Climbers Bivouac. For more information about lodging and other services in the Mount St. Helens region, visit the Cowlitz County Tourism website at visitmtsthelens.com.