Explore the most popular nature trips trails in Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Completed this hike last Friday (October 12th) and weather was perfect, sunny with a little chill in the air. The last mile was the hardest by far but well worth the effort!

Completely loved this hike. Perfect weather yesterday, sunshine and no wind. I won’t lie, this was a hard hike for me. Loved the bouldering but the ridge line of ash kicked my ash. Fantastic visibility granted us a glorious view of the crater, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt.Hood and what we think was Mt.Washington. It was incredible. The hike down was hard on tired legs but we found the rocky trail below Monitor Ridge was easier than the boulders. Wonderful. Best hike of my life!

more steps than trail,but what views definitely do again

Awesome experience! I’ve never done a subterranean hike and this was absolutely amazing. It wasn’t too crowded today. I went al the way back on the lower trail until I belly crawled to a point where my brain said enough! I did a small portion of the upper trail as I soon realized my knee injury didn’t approve. I will return and finish that tho. Again. Amazing! But please please please bring a headlamp or flashlight. Saw a few iPhone users and it just didn’t cut it.

Hiked to summit today and found it on the way down. Please contact me with a description to claim it so I can get it back to you. 425-785-1140

so so pretty

I loved these views!! Went yesterday and arrived at 3pm and made it to the campsites by 430 or so. It’s an easy hike that goes through tons of beautiful fall foliage, and at this time all the leaves are smelling and crisp and like autumn rain! The sun was out and I got amazing views of Spirit Lake, St. helens, Rainier, Adams, and Mt Hood. It was crazy!!! Wish I could’ve made it to the top. Planned to camp there and completely forgot drinking water and discovered it was a dry trail. Had to turn around once I ran out. So pack a ton of water, and wear sunscreen! I’m definitely coming back to this hike. I loved that we didn’t go through many trees, because that meant open sky and views pretty much the whole way. I used directions from the WTA website and they helped so much. There’s a lot of junctions and sometimes it can be confusing. Print something out beforehand and make sure you know where you’re headed.
Forest roads along the way were paved for the most part with some random yet kinda common cracks and potholes. like really bad ones. They’re not gravel roads, but it looks like the road split in half, maybe due to the eruption of St. helens? Some of the paved roads are cracked and caved in so just drive slow. All vehicles should be good.

Completed this hike on Tuesday, October 2. We had clear beautiful weather in the treeline, then the wind picked up. We were in and out of clouds for the rest of the ascent. The winds were around 55kph when we started and increased to 65+kph (around 40mph) as we were reaching the top. We had ice forming on us as we continued to gain elevation (my calculations said that it as about 19 degrees with the wind chill). Even with multiple layers, it was getting really cold. Made it to the top with the wind against us in about 5 hours. It was 34 degrees at the top, still heavy winds, so we didn’t stay long. Three hours down...the boulder field was a challenge with the wind on our backs. Knocked me down a few times. But we made it! Incredible experience, empowering, and worth the frozen hands, and wind burnt face. =)


I made it! I started at 6:30am and it took me 7 hours up and 4 hours down. What can I say I'm slow, but I made it and that's all that mattered to me. I saw 7 people turn around because the weather got bad. The weather was about 50 degrees at the beginning, but got very cold as the day went on. The strong wind gusts knocked me over a few times and I had icicles on my hat and gloves. Take your time, stop a lot if you need to, enjoy the views, and start early especially if you're a slow hiker. And remember your head lamp!

Kids had a blast. My kids are younger so we stuck with the lower caves. But, I would love to come back at some point for the upper section. Definitely worth while for everyone to explore. Bring good lights and back ups.

Sunday, 9/30/18, was not the best day to go up the mountain! The weather came in and it was foggy, lost trail markers on the way down, app worked great didn’t need to break out gps. Then the weather changed towards the top and blowing wind and freezing rain. Even with full ski gear I was still cold. The trail was everything as advertised though! Three adventures in one, forest, bouldering, and the challenging ash section. Don’t wait to break out your trekking poles!

Hike starts off nice and easy as it goes for strenuous hikes go for the first 3 miles and then you hit the boulders and loose rocks then the grind begins . Don't forget to look around and take many breaks . We left camp at 6:30am and reached the summit around 11:30 follow the poles but don't be worried about how close you stay to them because there are many trails close by and they all lead to the top . Breathe taking views we were lucky enough to go up on a clear but windy day . Took about a dozen pics and headed back down . The trip down was a lot faster than the way up . Back to camp around 2:30 . Tough but worth it

You can just go rogue in the caves with a headlamp it was absolutely sick

24 days ago

great hike

This was an awesome trail. I underestimated this trail but it was well worth it. We went up a few weeks ago it was cold and foggy the way up but the top was gorgeous. I took up a 40 lbs pack to prepare for some hiking my wife and I are going to do in Peru in a month. This was a great test. I’m on the thicker side and was definitely feeling the weight going up. The boulders are harder going back down than coming up. The ash is not fun going up but much easier in the downslope. Went with a group of 6 and I was the slowest. The entire trip up and down with lunch and observation time at the top was like eight and a half hours. This trail can be done by almost anyone as we met younger kids (12ish in age) to older like mid-late 60’s going up. Just have to be ready to suck wind for a while. We were stopped by rangers and asked for our permits, so make sure you have them. Make sure you take poles. It would have been much harder coming down the rocks without those. Anyways an amazing trail.

Had bad luck with the weather on our hike yesterday. Thick fog, driving rain, and relentless wind. Our party of 12 split into a slow group and a fast group once we arrived at the Last Chance bathroom. This was a good point to add layers, have a snack and a rest. Once you pass the tree line, the boulders were a fun challenge. A little difficult to see the trail, but easy enough to see the trail guide pole even in the fog. Unfortunately, the wind and rain made the journey too cold to continue to the summit and we turned back just before the ash field. I’d say the decent in the boulder field was by far the most challenging. Wear gloves - using my hands was far more effective than my poles. I read on a previous post that the trail hike back feels longer than it does on the ascent and it absolutely does. Can’t wait to try this hike again, hopefully in better weather next summer!

For gear, I was grateful for my poles, warm wool hat, neck cover and gloves, though by the time we returned to the car, I don’t think a single article of clothing on me was dry...

Did this yesterday, September 19, 2018. Great experience. The scree at the top was easy since it was wet from recent snow melt. No need for poles going up, but would have been useful for the down trip. Up in 4.5 gours, down in 2. Beautiful weather at summit...sun and no wind but clouds to the south, spent and hour up there which I hear us unusual.

Super hike/climb.
The boulder field was a lot of fun.
The ash was fustrating.

I loved this mountain. We climbed it yesterday, the weather was terrible, the views were non existent, but memories for a lifetime. It only took us 6 and a half round trip. Left our car at 6:18 am and back to the car at 1:45. I’ll be doing this again next year, hopefully with better weather to catch the views.

Not too difficult except the last ashy area, super windy!

Hiked on Sept 1st, Started at 5am, reached summit at noon and reached back down by 7pm. We took a lot of breaks and spent most of our time at the boulder field. Starting early, we crosses the treeline for a beautiful sunrise and got lucky with very clear skies. Get gloves for scrambling over the boulders and rocks. Suggest wearing Gaiters for the gravel trail.

Blessed to make it out on a clear blue sky day. This path is right along the visitor center and features amazing views of Mount Saint Helens and the peak of Mount Adams.

Hiked this on 8Aug with my wife and 12 year old son. He only really complained on the way down but i don't blame him, lol. It wasn't as bad as we thought it would be but our legs are still burning two days later, lol, and we're avid hikers. Nonetheless, what an experience to be standing atop an active volcano. There's plenty of reviews that cover the terrain so I won't get into that. We started from Climbers Bivouac at 0400, got to the summit at 0845 and got back to truck at 1245. We took 2 long breaks and multiple short breaks on the way up and a 45 minute rest at the top. Recommendations: 1) start early. Getting up at 0330 sucked but it was worth it. Coming down at lunchtime was Hot. 2) Take plenty of breaks. 3) Pack lots of water. I went through about 4 liters which seemed to be plenty for me. 4) Pack good snacks. 5) when you get to the ash, step in other people's footsteps, much easier. 6) Have a full change of clothes at thr bottom and more snacks and drinks. 7) watch one of the YouTube documentaries on the history, makes it much more enjoyable to actually relate the two. All of those recommendations are pretty standard for most hikes so nothing out of thr ordinary. Enjoy.

1 month ago

We had so much fun on this trail! We did the harder upper cave with my partner and four kids ranging in age of 6 to 19, they all did really great! Tips: bring a jacket, sturdy shoes, long pants, and a GOOD headlamp. You want your hands for climbing. Being an extra flashlight too. I took us almost an hour and a half to get through just the upper cave portion, not including the trail back. Enjoy!!

Summitted on Labor Day 9/3/2018 and in my humble opinion late Summer to early Fall is the BEST time of the year to do this hike - cool temperatures and one does not have to deal with added complications brought on, and additional gear needed, due to snow & ice. I got extra lucky and was fortunate to experience a clear day with blue spotless skies!

You will need a permit to climb above the tree line ~4800 feet. Up to this point, you are just hiking around in a typical PNW evergreens forest. Permits on the USDA website sell out quickly in the spring, but I have found that there is a high probability of getting lucky on the purmit.com website. You will need to note down your permit number on your parking stub and in the Climber's Register, and there are forest rangers stationed along the route.

I parked at Climber's Bivouac at around 6 a.m. but you are allowed to spend the night in your car or in a tent at this parking lot. There are no restaurants or facilities and this is parking-lot is deep into the forest at the end of a gravel road. I ate a hearty breakfast which I had brought, used the )chemical, no running water) restroom, signed in the Climber's Register, paid $5/- for parking and began climbing at 0715 a.m. I took the Ptarmigan Trail up to the Monument Rim.

I am a woman, 43, in good shape and this was a solo hike. I had decided to play it very safe and keep a slow but steady pace. I was able to be back at the trailhead by 4:00 p.m. with an actual moving time of just over 9 hours. I took about 20 minutes at the rim to enjoy the views, and several mini-breaks for rest, scenery and photos along the way. Determined, slow and steady will get you to the top - this hike is challenging but achievable for most hikers.

GEAR: Must-haves for this time of the year are ankle-high boots, gloves, sun-glasses, gators, a buff/scarf to cover your ears, and a wind-proof jacket. Nice-to-haves are hiking poles and a wide-brimmed hat. I recommend wearing full sleeves and long pants/tights to avoid getting scratched on the rocks.

The first ~1.5 miles is a steady uphill walk in a forest. You will be able to see (L-R) Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and the tri-peak of the Sisters through clearings.

The middle ~1.5 miles is where you will climb steep uphill among a field of small boulders. Keep an eye out for the route markers as there is no trail, you just have to make your way up to the next marker among the boulders. For the most part, you are holding rocks with your hands and working your legs between/over rocks. If you don't wear gloves you could easily cut yourself on the rock. I did not / could not use my poles as I felt I needed the use of both my hands.

The uppermost section is soft ash mixed with tiny pebbles & scree. Hiking uphill in the ash scree itself is not very challenging assuming you have boots on with good treads. The challenge here is in the steep elevation gain and in taking it one small step at a time and not being overwhelmed by seeming endlessness of the mountain. If ever you feel a bit discouraged, just look downhill to feel good about how much you've achieved, take a deep well-deserved breath to reset and put your next foot forward.

As you approach the rim, be prepared for your mind to be completely blown away by the breathtaking view of Mount Rainier for the first time, the smoldering crater and the glaciers surrounding the dome of the volcano. Spirit Lake with all its floating tree-trunks is at the bottom of the crater, and if you look hard enough you may be able to see the Visitor Center. The "true summit" is a 0.25-mile long walk along the crater's rim, to your left.

Take in the views, and a good rest at the top, because the downhill challenge is about to begin. You will dig your heels deep into the steep ash scree - here is where the gators come in handy. Although it never feels unsafe, be prepared for your shoes to fill up with little pebbles, and to end up with your backside on the scree in a slo-mo cushioned fall. The boulders are also challenging downhill, and I hate to admit it but my knees felt a bit wobbly by the time I got back to the tree-line elevation. The downhill walk seems miraculously much longer than the uphill walk!

This hike will squeeze the juice out of you but will pay you back ten-fold in views and satisfaction. It is worth every last drop of effort and expense you will put into planning this hike.

Amazing view at the top, last section is pretty slippery but overall not bad!

Obviously, you’ll need a permit so secure one in advance (https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fseprd528670) or you can get lucky by posting on purmit.com which is what I did!

My hike began early around 8:00 AM where I got to enjoy the gorgeous fog amongst the forest that starts out the climb. From there, once the trees break away a bit, you’ll soon be climbing boulder “stairs”. Just follow the wooden pylons wedged between the rocks.

After that, prepare for a nonstop, strenuous climb with brief (and I mean VERY brief) moments of respite from verticality. Take it slow and double-down on water. You will also need some sort of hand coverings to help you climb. The rocks are sharp and I could see signs of shreddage on the gloves I had on me (not proper climbing gloves).

The final section is nothing but “sand” aka ash and small rocks. Highly advise you to bring hiking poles of some sort—I did not and paid dearly for it. Without them, you will be taking one step forward and sliding two steps back which can become very frustrating and defeating quickly. Also, at this point, the wind will also be working against you, so be sure to wear a shell of some sort.

Unfortunately, once I had reached the summit, it was far too foggy to see inside :( However, the climb itself is definitely worth it.

Overall, I had not hiked for 9 months and am about 20 lbs overweight and was able to do it within less than 7 hours. I packed ~100 ounces of water, and 4 RX Bars for the trek and used nearly all of it up.

1 month ago

One of the coolest experiences we've had on a hike! We did the more challenging upper cave and, while it definitely took some careful navigating and agility, it was totally worth it. We would have been in rough shape without our sturdy shoes, headlamps, and gloves (not so much for warmth, but to protect your hands as you'll be using them to steady yourself A LOT).

1 month ago

Fun hike for adults and kids! Chilly in the cave, make sure to bring jackets.

1 month ago

So beautiful and peaceful! The perfect length and difficulty. If you go on a cloudy day be prepared to not see Mt. Saint Helens in all its glory.

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