Mount St. Helens is an active volcano in southwest Washington State and the central feature of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Mount St. Helens is a popular climb for both beginning and experienced mountaineers. Although people are able to climb Mount St. Helens year-round, late spring through early fall is the most popular season.
Most climbers use the Monitor Ridge Route from Climbers Bivouac. This route gains 4,500 feet in five miles to the crater rim at 8,365 feet elevation. Although strenuous, this non-technical climb is suitable for people in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling on steep, rugged terrain. Most climbers complete the round trip in seven to twelve hours. While climbing to the crater rim is permitted, entry into the crater is strictly prohibited.
From Cougar, drive east on Forest Road 90 just 1 mile beyond the Swift Dam, and turn left (north) onto FR 83. Continue north on FR 83 to the junction with FR 81. Turn left onto FR 81 and drive 1.6 miles before turning right onto FR 830. Follow this to the large trailhead parking lot. The trailhead, known as the Climbers' Bivouac since it is the starting point for every group headed for the crater rim, offers composting toilets and plenty of parking.
Climbing permits are required. May 15 though October 31st, a climbing quota is in effect with a limit of 100 climbers per day. April 1st through October 31st, Climbing Fees are in effect. Permits are $22.00 per person. Climbing Permts are available in advance on-line only at mshinstitute.org. and are available for pick up at the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar WA.
Below is a list of food and equipment needed to have a safe experience atop Mount St. Helens:
Water: 3-4 liters per person
Food: High-energy food recommended. Bring enough for several small meals and snacks. Consider leaving extra in your car for when you return
Sun Protection: sunscreen, sunglasses with side protectors, hat, SPF lip balm
Hiking Boots: Lug-soled, waterproof, with ankle protection and ¾ shank
Gaiters: waterproof to keep rain, snow, ice and pumice out of your boots
Clothing: Dress in layers and include a warm hat, waterproof coat and pants.
First Aid Kit
Headlamp or Flashlight
Climbers are allowed to camp at Climber’s Bivouac with a parking permit (issued with their climbing permit). Hikers who are parking at Climber’s Bivouac to use trails rather than summit the volcano must have a Northwest Forest Pass displayed on the dash of their vehicle.