So you want to climb Mount St. Helens? My Guide to Get to the Summit – Summer and Winter Routes

Adventures

At 8,366′, Mount St. Helens is the shortest of Washington’s Cascade Volcanoes and with routes that avoid glaciers or technical ascents, generally considered the most straight forward to climb but that doesn’t make it easy by any stretch! From nearly 6,000 vertical-feet of snow & ice climbing in Winter and much of Spring to over 4,500′ of dirt, rock and scree in Summer and Fall, Helens is a very real mountain with challenges all its own. For the avid climber on a clear day, Helens may not seem like much but for many, it’s a bucket list item and then some.

Mount St Helens Summit in Winter

Winter view from the summit of Helens

The reward it offers is well worth the effort: thousands of feet of ski-friendly slopes, endless views of the Cascades, a direct look into the contiguous USA’s most recently erupted Volcano and just an amazing day no matter how far you get (or how far conditions let you go.)

Climbing Mount St Helens

Winter climbing on the Summer route in late Fall.

To help in explaining the climb, I’ve put together two guides for the mountain depending on the season you’ll be headed up based on my personal experiences. Note that road and trail conditions dictate which route you’ll be taking, it’s entirely possible to still be on the winter trail in late spring, possibly even summer! You can find the latest conditions on regularly updated climbing report.

Summer & Winter climb trail guides:

And as always, remember that blogs like mine are just a start. Be sure to carefully review the realities of the mountain, prepare for the physical challenges ahead, check the weather forecast, and be know what gear to bring along. The Forest Service explains this at length on their website and the Mount St. Helens Institute has everything you need to know about securing peak season (4/1 – 10/31) permits as well.

Summer view from the summit of Helens

Sitting on the summit in summer.

Have your own experiences, updated conditions from a climb, or a question? Be sure to post a comment here or on either guide posts.

Directions, tips & other trail details:

  • Route: Monitor Ridge (Summer) or Worm Flows (Winter)
  • Official Rating: Very Difficult
  • My Rating: Buying the t-shirt
  • Start point: Climbers Bivouac or Marble Mountain
  • Facilities: Vault Toilets (no water at the TH)
  • Distance: Around 9 – 12 miles R/T
  • Duration: 7-12+ hours
  • Climb: 4,700 – 5,700′
  • Facilities: Vault restrooms at the TH
  • Permits: Required year round. Advance purchase in peak season.
  • Parking: NW Forest Pass or WA sno-park pass