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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Mount Saint Helens Rim, WA

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Guide 5 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List WA > Volcano
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9.55 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,758 feet
Elevation Gain 4,551 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,747 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 33.29
Interest Peak
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7  2019-07-24 keepmoving
30  2018-07-28 chumley
18  2012-07-18 sbkelley
31  2011-08-23 cindyl
26  2010-09-06 Dano
Author Dano
author avatar Guides 12
Routes 0
Photos 479
Trips 247 map ( 901 miles )
Age 56 Male Gender
Location Vancouver, WA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Aug, Jul, Sep, Jun → 8 AM
Seasons   Summer
Sun  5:55am - 6:07pm
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Kick Ash!
by Dano

Likely In-Season!
If you have the stamina (and the knees) to hike this one, you will be rewarded with some of the best views in Washington. After its eruption in 1980, the mountain lost about 1,300 feet of elevation. Note that this description applies to the Summer months only; many people do a longer version of this hike in the Winter months as well. Though not requiring special climbing skills, there are several things you should know before attempting this hike:

1) It has a 4,500 foot elevation gain. For you Arizona hikers, I equate this to climbing Camelback Mountain three times. I found this one harder than Humphrey's Peak near Flagstaff, simply because of the amount of uphill climbing. Though I was in decent shape, it took me 5 hours to get to the top.

2) The hike gets progressively more difficult as you climb. The first two miles are easy, in nicely forested areas. Then come the volcanic rocks--by the tens of thousands, about 100 of which you will need to hike right through. And the last portion is all fine ash. You take a step and slide back down about a fourth of a step.

3) You must plan ahead and get a permit to make this hike. Instructions can be found here and here. The bad news is that only 100 hikers are allowed to hike above 4,800 feet from May 15th to October 31st, and most summer days sell out a month in advance (weekend days even earlier). The good news is that people often purchase the permit, then realize they cannot do the hike, and post on a message board. This message board is how I got my permit just the day before my hike. I e-mailed the person offering the permit; he left it at the Lone Fir Resort where you register, and I left the money with the Resort for him to pick up after the hike. Since you must register before and after the hike, there was no inconvenience to anyone.

As far as equipment to bring, I suggest that you check out the web sites above. Volcanic ash is everywhere--I got it in my ears, my eyes, and in my boots. If you are not wearing long pants, then get gaiters, and be sure to cover up as much as you can. The weather can change quickly, so get the latest forecast.

The Trailhead starts at the Climber's Bivouac parking lot; there is a restroom there, and another about 2 miles up the trail. The first two miles meander through beautiful forest, then intersect with the Loowit trail. Continue straight ahead where the trees quickly thin out, and the rock climbing begins. There are dozens of paths, but just be sure to stay within sight of the posts. I had a rather aggressive chipmunk climb in my lap seeking some of my food. Above the timberline there are smaller plants and flowers to enjoy; do your best to avoid stepping on them. The trail then alternates between ash and rocky portions. On this September day, once I got above the cloud level, there were great views of Mt. Hood to the South, and Mt. Adams to the immediate East. During some portions you can actually see the summit, but be patient, it is a few hours' hike away. Patches of snow and a few small glaciers reveal evidence of hikers glissading on their return path (I didn't try this, but in the spring it is quite popular, though dangerous).

At about 7,200 feet you will hike past a monitor, with a sign revealing its purpose. There is another one further down the hill, but it is obscured. From this point onward it is a tough, slow push. You can see the summit with the lucky hikers at the top. The altitude starts to be a factor as well. The ash gets deeper, and I found myself only able to walk 1 or 2 minutes at a time before resting. At this point it is sheer determination that moved me to the top; some younger, fitter hikers passed me, but with patience, I was able to make it to the rim. The views are spectacular: the rim, Mt. Adams, Spirit Lake and Mt. Rainier and snow at the edge of the crater.

The first portion of the descent is easy, merely walk-sliding on the ash. Once you reach the rocky portions, be extra careful because your knees are shaky, and exhaustion starts to set in. I had several near slips and falls.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. Arrive fit and prepared or this could get ugly.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2010-09-06 Dano
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Review
    Mount Saint Helens Rim
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    In a word, this was "steep." That's what I've told everyone. With less than 4.8 miles to make it 4500 feet of elevation gain, it's just got to be. The first two miles only gains 1000 feet of elevation. You know what that means? That means it's straight up from there. The hike description from Dano is not an elaboration - it gets steeper the higher you go. The first part also involved a little weather. We had rain the night before, and the rain continued into the morning. But it did clear off eventually.

    The first stretch is the walk through the woods. That doesn't mean it's easy. It's still uphill. The second part is the boulder field. Think: the last mile on Humphrey's on steroids. It's boulder climbing - which makes it fun for me. I loved this part. It was probably another two miles of this.

    The third part, as if the other parts weren't hard enough, is the really hard part. It involves pain (an extreme pitch of ash and pumice scree). Again, I can't help but compare it to something in Arizona. Think the last little bit up to the ruins at Devil's Chasm? But more. And no foliage at all to grab onto. And then the payoff. The view of the rim.

    From there, I went where the author if this hike description didn't go. I just had to tackle the summit. I couldn't have my beer until then. So on we went - along the ridge. This part (the optional part 4) was the part that involved much exposure and a very scary 20 feet or so. It just wouldn't be a cindyl triplog without drama, right? So, there is one part that totally had me frozen. I was just two steps into it and I froze. My hiking partner had gone on before, but he had gone out of earshot while I made my way across this part. The ground was ash. No solid ground could be found underfoot. It was easily a 50 percent slope that I couldn't see the footsteps of my hiking partner that went just before. So stressful! :scared: I did make it through, and on up to the top. I did this video of the 360 from the top. I apologize for the wind noise: I don't think I've ever felt such an accomplishment! :y:

    OK - so yes, next came the real drama. My friend asked me if maybe we might want to cut some of the trip off by doing a shortcut on the way down. I was all for making it a little less scary. However, it didn't really work out that way. I think we added about an hour to our trip, and a lot more scary. It was extreme exposure - extreme danger. I'd advise anyone to go back via the trail. We cut across the pumice, snow, and ash, back to the scree slope that we had made it up. This entire section was at an extreme slope - and with nothing solid beneath our feet. And no - I didn't take any photos of this. It was all I could do to stay on the slope, and not totally freak out. I took a video of a couple of kids that glissaded down the snow portion from earlier (, but I had decided that I had had enough adventure for one day when we finally made it back to the trail. I don't think my heart could take it.

    So then we made our way down the trail. The scree slope, the boulder field, and then the walk through the woods (and we ran part of the way down, too). Another interesting thing: there was a toilet near the top of the wooded portion - if only they had a view from the toilet, it would've been perfect.

    What a fantastic day. :D :GB:

    Gear required: trekking poles, gloves, knee-high gaiters to keep the ash out of your boots, and 4 mil plastic in case you decide to glissade down (unless you want to freeze like those guys that did it only shorts!).

    Permit $$
    information is in description

    Gifford Pinchot Forest
    more info

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Portland, drive north on Interstate 5 to Woodland Exit 21. Drive East on the 503 about 30 miles to the town of Cougar, and pick up your $22 parking pass and hiking permit at the Lone Fir Resort. Contuinue East on the 503 about 6.7 miles to Road 83 and turn left and go about 3 miles. Turn left onto Road 81, and after about 1.7 miles (watch for signs to the Climers' Bivouac), turn right on gravel road 830, which arrives at the trailhead after about 2.7 miles.
    page created by Dano on Sep 06 2010 7:49 am
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