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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.

Mt Saint Helens - Worm Flow Route (winter), WA

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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List WA > Volcano
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 10.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,671 feet
Elevation Gain 5,569 feet
Accumulated Gain 5,730 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8-12 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 39.15
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Peak
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
32  2019-04-21 Lucyan
15  2018-04-24 keepmoving
1  2017-05-23 keepmoving
8  2016-05-09 keepmoving
Author keepmoving
author avatar Guides 34
Routes 206
Photos 1,847
Trips 517 map ( 3,846 miles )
Age 33 Male Gender
Location Portland, OR
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Aug, Jul, Sep, Jun → Early
Seasons   Winter
Sun  5:55am - 6:07pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!
The Worm Flow Route is the winter route for those people who wish to summit Mt. Saint Helens while it is snow covered- typically from November through May. The winter route is a longer hike than the summer route and requires an additional 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

Although the Forest Service describes this as a non-technical route to the summit, they highly recommend you carry an ice axe and crampons. When I hiked this route I carried an Ice Axe and wore Micro Spikes on my boots- both came in handy a number of times. In addition to proper gear, avalanche safety and awareness of winter hazards such as cornices and crevasses along this route is extremely important.

From the parking lot, follow the marked trail through the trees and begin heading uphill. The trail starts gradual enough as it winds its way past several marked intersections with snowmobile paths.

At 2.3 miles in you will reach a marked intersection with the Loowit Trail that circles Mt. St Helens. Here you will have two options- you can follow a lesser used path up the east side of the ridge along swift creek, or follow the Loowit trail as it drops across the ravine and then climbs to up the west side. Although you can take either path- I STRONGLY encourage you to follow the main path to the west side of the drainage.

Having followed the path across the ravine to the west ridge, you will only be on the Loowit Trail for 1/10 of a mile until you reach a sign denoting the turnoff to the Worm Flow climbing route. Turn due north along the Worm Flows route and follow the path as it winds its way along the ridge towards the lower slopes of Mt. Saint Helens. There are a couple of wooden signs posts planted along the route, and previous hikers may have left flagging or cairns to mark the way. Although there are often multiple foot paths in the snow and ice that lead every which way, your best bet is to follow the west ridge line straight up the mountain.

When in doubt, I recommend following the path that appears the most worn. It is also helpful to keep an eye on the slopes ahead of you to watch the progress of others as they make their way up or down the mountain in order to gauge the best path. Use your best judgement here and be safe. If you find yourself on a route that just doesn't feel right- either it is becoming too vertical or the footprints have ended, you may want to backtrack or contour along the slopes until you intersect the popular route again.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

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2016-05-10 keepmoving
    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 Reviews
    Mt Saint Helens - Worm Flow Route (winter)
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Made my annual trek up to Mt. St Helens for the 3rd year in a row. Decided to switch things up this time and carry my snowboard gear up to the top so I could ride down. Took a friend with me for their first time climbing St. Helens.

    Normally I like to get a super early start so I can start climbing on firm snow, but we were moving a bit slow today and were in the trailhead ready to go at 9am. It was sunny and surprisingly warm when we set off up the trail. There were only 18 out of 500 permits claimed to climb the mountain for the day and we were the last group to start climbing.

    The trail was snow covered from the very start. We made decent time as we worked out way up to Chocolate Falls, pausing on the ridge just past the falls to make some final adjustments to our gear and adjust our layers and put on micro spikes. As we started heading up the ridge line that leads to the summit we passed the first group of the day that was headed back after a successful climb.

    The late start meant that the snow was a bit slushy and loose as we post holed our way up towards the summit. As we climbed higher the wind began to increase to the point where it was almost unbearable. Climbing with a full snowboard on my back meant that I was particularly susceptible to being blown over and had to brace myself for the strong gusts. We took frequent breaks, taking advantage of any snow free rock outcroppings to re-hydrate, stretch, and grab a quick snack before pushing on.

    As we climbed higher out encounters with the other climbers returning for the day became more frequent. Most everyone else was skiing down, but there were a couple other snowboards and one group of people glissading.

    After 6 hours we reached the ice covered summit. We had clear view in all directions- Rainier to the North, Adams to the east, Mt Hood and Jefferson to the south. It was crazy windy at the summit, but we lingered for a while as we soaked in the views. Eventually we decided that Greg would start glissading down first, and I would drop in after him on my snowboard.

    The first 100 yards off the summit were a bit tough- my legs were cramping up and super sore from the climb, the ground was also icy and it took a couple of falls before I got my legs under me and loosened up. Greg and I switched the lead on the way down. Sometimes he would glissade ahead and I would follow behind as I took a meandering route along the mountain, other times I would drop in ahead of him and scout the best route for him to follow. I managed to ride down to about 4500' before I took the board off and started walking again. I might have been able to continue a bit further, but I was exhausted from route finding and didn't know if the valley below the ridge line was rideable, so it was just easier to start hiking again.

    Made it back to the parking lot just after 9 hours. The last hour and a half of hiking were a pretty miserable slog- we were both exhausted, sunburned, and out of water. When we got back to the lot we were the last car left (as expected) but another group of climbers arrived shortly after. They were getting ready to camp before summiting the following day, so we discussed trail conditions and gave them some pointers before heading out.

    With out main adventure done for the day, we set off back to the town of Cougar to grab some food. But a couple of miles down the road we were delayed as we were flagged down by a guy who got his civic stuck on a flooded forest road while trying to hunt mushrooms. We offered to help and winched his vehicle out. The entire vehicle was completely flooded and I am pretty confident that the engine block was likely cracked after he flooded the engine, but he declined a ride back to town and insisted on staying behind with hit wife and kids to work on the car and to try and get it running again. After getting back to Cougar we made a phone call to the guys brother and left a message to have him head out to rescue his brother, then sat down for some well deserved food before making the long drive home.
    Mt Saint Helens - Worm Flow Route (winter)
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Got an early start and left Milwaukie at 0330 and was on trail by 0530. Already quite a few other cars in the parking lot- some of the people had even tent camped there in order to be on trail so early.

    Forecast was for clear skies and weather in the 60s, I started out in just a t-shirt and pants. It was a bit chilly, but I warmed up fairly quickly. The trail was almost entirely snow covered from the very start. Last year I probably hiked for almost an hour before I hit snow, but this year it was immediate. There was enough that I could have put on the microspikes in the trailhead, but I decided to save them until I started the real climbing.

    Knowing the route this year made things much easier, even with all the snow. I made decent time and passed quite a few other climbers. About halfway up the mountain I found a good set of fresh crampon tracks that cut a great path through the snow and ice. They were very easy to follow due to their distinctive pattern, and they followed a mostly straight line straight up the mountain (instead of needlessly zig zagging like so many of the other tracks did).

    Made it to the summit in just under 4 hours. There were already 3 girls hanging out on the summit, and I arrived just behind the guy that was leaving all the crampon tracks. We all chatted for a bit- I learned the girls had started at 0330 to be the first ones on the summit (making me #5 for the day). I also thanked the crampon guy for leaving such a distinctive path of prints in the snow.

    I left the summit shortly before the other, following a shallow glissade trail down the crest. The girls caught up with me a short while later and we leap frogged each other for a bit. Eventually I left them behind as I made my way to the lower slopes of the mountain. I really enjoyed watching the groups of tired climbers trudge their way uphill out of breath while I carelessly glissaded down with a smile on my face.

    Had some extreme cramping in my legs on the way down that forced me to stop a couple times. It was severe enough that there were a couple of moments where I couldn't physically bend my legs at all and had to wait for a couple of minutes until the cramping subsided as I downed salt pills and water. And here I thought I had my cramping issues resolved, I guess I need to work harder on pre-hydrating...
    Mt Saint Helens - Worm Flow Route (winter)
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    First trip up Mt. Saint Helens!

    Since its light out until well past 9pm, I was planning to start around noon. But I woke up at 3am and couldn't go back to sleep. I eventually let my house at 8am and made it to the trailhead shortly before 10am. There were about 20 other cars in the parking lot, when I purchased my permit 2 days prior there were 60 other permits claimed for the day.

    It was partially cloudy in the parking lot and slightly cool. The trail was snow free for the first mile or so, then I started encountering patches of snow for the next 1.5 miles. I leap frogged another couple for most of the day.

    We all made the mistake of following the east ridge up the base of the mountain and ended up going up some sketchy steep sections of snow that did not have tracks on them. The wind was incredibly powerful and we were getting pelted with shards of ice that felt like glass. Eventually we discussed things and decided to contour a bit to the west to get a view of alternative routes up the mountain. Way off in the distance we spotted a trail marker on the top of the west ridge, so we spent 15-20 minutes readjusting our course and contouring along the mountain until we came upon the proper path that was covered in boot prints. Following the wrong course probably set us all back a good hour or so and definitely tired me out.

    Back on the right path, it was now a fairly straight shot uphill to the summit. We passed several other groups of hikers- some glisading down, others on skis. Although exhausted from our detour, it was still much easier to walk uphill following previous footprints then having to kick my own path up a wall of snow and ice.

    I am very glad I wore my microspikes- they were super useful and did an amazing job keeping traction in the snow. I also bought an ice axe specifically for this trip and am very glad I did so. At one point when we were contouring along the hillside to regain the correct path I lost my footing and slid downhill on my back for a good 20 yards until the slope flattened out. Up until this point I had been hiking with just my two treking poles, but after my slide I pulled out the ice axe and felt more comfortable for the duration of the hike.

    I carried about 4 liters of water on the hike and did my best to keep hydrated and eat snacks along the way. But on the return trip both of my legs began cramping up. This is becoming a standard occurrence now on any hikes that last more than a couple of hours and I don't know what the issue is. It was extremely painful (and unsafe) to not be able to walk properly as I made my way down the mountain. The cramps ran the whole length of my legs and were worse than I have ever experienced.

    After reaching the end of the snow zone and putting my microspikes and axe away, I began to make my way downhill again and immediately took a nasty tumble down a rocky section of trail. I landed on my left side and slid 180 degrees. I immediately knew my left arm was injured- it was covered in blood and swollen, but I could still wiggle my fingers and I could bend my arm. I knew there was really nothing I could do about my elbow on trail, so I got myself up and just headed straight downhill without taking another look at the arm. Now that I am home I feel very fortunate that I didn't break anything- my arm is swollen and badly bruised, but otherwise I am good to go!

    Permit $$
    Nov thru Mar - Free self issued permit at the trailhead.

    Apr thru Oct - Permits must be purchased online.

    Gifford Pinchot Forest
    more info

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Woodlawn Washington, follow Highway 503/Lewis River Road east for 35 miles. Turn left on Highway 83 (the sign shows Ape Cave/Climbers Bouvac/Lava Canyon). Follow the signs for 83/Lava Canyon for 6 miles to the parking lot.

    A Washington Sno-Park pass is required to park in the lot from December 1st through April 30th and cannot be obtained at the trailhead.
    page created by keepmoving on May 10 2016 6:03 am
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