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.

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.

16 days 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.

18 days 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).

18 days ago

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

22 days 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.

It’s an amazing hike that I can’t believe is unregulated. It is typically cool and damp inside the cave so bring a jacket and good quality lights. Those caves eat up the light and it is what true darkness looks like.

Summited on a Monday morning, Aug 27th. Left the bivouac around 5am, returned by 1. The hike itself is, as everyone has already mentioned, difficult, but more than doable if you're in decent shape. You WILL need a tough pair of gloves while climbing through the boulder field, the rock is extremely sharp and will not hesitate to cut you. Additionally, bring hiking poles, 3-4l of water, and some warm clothing for the top. This was my first ever summit of any mountain, & I'm so happy I got to do it in such an awe-inspiring place.

Coming from NF-99, the road was washed out. There were at least 5 trees fallen on the road about 4 miles from the trail head. I think people have accessed from Rd-26, but we decided to try for another trail and came across another road that was closed for construction.

25 days ago

wow.. u can c the lava dome up close n personal

26 days ago


Not a summit trip, due to being beat up by a Rainier climb the day before, but still an amazing place to explore. There isn't anywhere else on the planet quite like St. Helens.

1 month ago

This is my second time coming here with my son… We absolutely enjoyed it. This time my boy wanted to bring his friend to show him and the two nine-year-olds had a blast here!! Pretending that I was a monster and they were running through a dark cave with lights… It was like a ghetto remake of the Blair witch Project in a cave instead of the woods.

Amazing place to visit… The walls are surreal and so is the magnitude of it. Bring a jacket because it’s about 20° colder in the cave then it is outside of the cave. Also, bring a good light because it is pitch black.

This is the second cave I have done on alltrails and when you go underground, the GPS does not work at all. I walked the whole route but it only registered before I went underground. This is not a negative… This is just how GPS works and I understand that. I’m just explaining why it only registers or .03 miles instead of the whole trip.

Summited August 18th with my mom for her 50th birthday and four of my aunties! Fantastic hike, it was my second time summitting. Views were incredible both on the ascent and at the top. Bring at least 4 liters of water and research what to pack!

Easy trail/road that connects with alot of other trails on the mountain. it is a gradual up hill. I would call this more easy than moderate. Beautiful views of the mountain.

Hard, but worth it in the end!

Very hard hike but so worth it! Boulder section was THE most challenging for me. Never ending. The climb to the top was hard but since I knew I was right there it was ok. Beautiful day!!!

This hike is certainly not an easy one but boy it’s worth the grind.
The boulders do go on forever and right when you can see the summit and feel as if it’s within reach, then comes the ash scree! The last 200-300ft are the hardest in my mind.
But once you reach the summit, the pain will be worth it. Along the trail up, there are gorgeous views of Mt Adams and Mt Hood too. Will do it again!

it was hard but definitely worth the view.

1 month ago

Well marked trail and a change up from the normal adventures around Mount St Helens

Grueling trek. Boulder fields seem to go on forever, and the final uphill over the loose ash is harsh and you'll doubt your ability to reach the top. Once you get there the views are amazing.

If you’re doing this hike in the summer (as we did), bring at least 3 liters of water- it is hot and dusty all the way to the summit. After you pass the tree line (2miles), the terrain is very rocky so bring gloves - you will spend ~ 2 miles scrambling over boulders. The last part is the hardest to go up - an incline of loose ash for about a mile. The view from the top is nice, but in the summer everything is brown and dry looking, and the sky can be hazy. Took us about 10 hours with several nature pee and snack breaks. Bring water, sunscreen, layers, gloves, boots, and poles.

1 month ago

There are 2 levels to this cave. The main tube (I think it's the lower cave) is really easy walk. We got bored with it and turned around. The other level ( upper cave) is pretty rough. The Rangers said that it is for more experienced cavers. People have had to be rescued due to concussions, broken bones and getting stuck. There's a wall that you have to climb over. Once you do that, there is no turning back and you have to continue onward. This was our first cave, so we didn't do that one. This is info that the Rangers shared with us. Have fun, but be careful!

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