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Mount Saint Helens Summit via Ptarmigan Trail

HARD 196 reviews

Mount Saint Helens Summit via Ptarmigan Trail is a 8.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Stevenson, Washington that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

8.2 miles
4583 feet
Out & Back




nature trips

rock climbing






wild flowers





no dogs

A summit pass is required above the timberline, so get one and get your slog on! In the summer, a nice and tough hike. In the winter, a snowshoe/climb. All St. Helens trips start out at the Lone Fir Resort the night prior to hiking to pick up the permits. The weather forecast should be checked prior to climbing. It's best to start early morning at the climbers bivouc. The climb rises steadily as you go up in altitude. The wind and the altitude can affect many climbers but as with all physical activity being in shape to attempt this climb is a must. At the summit, you have amazing views as long as there are no clouds. glisading makes the trip much faster coming down as long as there is enough snow. Great trip overall. recommend climbing in spring or early summer right around the time that the Climbers Bivouc opens. 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. 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.

17 days ago

Loved this climb! We hiked on 6/4 and left camp at the parking lot around 4:45am. We made it back to the parking lot at 2pm. I’m glad we left early so the snow was more packed and easy to hike on. Most of the hike was pretty cloudy but the hike was still great and we got some cool views up top. Of course, the glissade was the best part. Bring lots of layers including warm gloves and a beanie. At one point it was so windy and cold. I wished I had brought warmer gloves and something to cover my face and ears. We did use our crampons once we got higher in elevation. We brought ice axes as well which we only needed to use for the glissade down.

23 days ago

The views are stunning. It was quite the climb. I went in the winter so I had crampons and my friend had snowshoes. So so beautiful.

25 days ago

Attempted on 5/22/18. Fantastic views. Was a very warm day. Glissading is so much fun and the best way down.

Absolutely AMAZING! climbed it 5/13/18. Glissading was fun!

*bring sunblock!

1 month ago

Loved glissading down. Way easier than Adams or Hood.

1 month ago

It was absolutely amazing. I did that today 5/4/18 and it took me four hours to get all the way to the top. I started at 4:00 am and it was worth it!!!!

3 months ago

This was my first really big hike. I got the permit in February and climbed in July. Couldn't have done it without poles and ankle boots (for the support). I didn't need crampons or anything at this point, but I did glissade down some snow chutes and could have used an ice pick. I used my retracted hiking poles. Be very careful if you glissade - there are some chutes that lead to nowhere or off of a cliff. Definitely wear long sleeve, light weight hiking shirts/pants. I wore a tank and a light sports hoody which I took off. My shoulders burned like crazy even with a ton of sunscreen. The snow, ash, and high altitude are the perfect recipe for a burn. Part 1 was a normal, medium-level hike. Part 2 was a rock scramble that lasted quite a long time. Bring gloves for this. Part 3 was the transition from a rock scramble to volcano ash, and Part 4 was all volcano ash. You actually fall two steps back for every step you take forward. It's like climbing a sand dune but less stable! But when you get to the top, the view is so incredible and there's enough flat land to stop for a snack or meal. Take in the beautiful peaks of other prominent mountains/volcanoes in the distance and marvel at how close the planes and helicopters are flying to you!

5 months ago

Total awesomeness!!

7 months ago

This was the best hike!! We had an incredibly clear day, sunshine all the time with crazy views. Took us 5 hours up and 5 hours down (we didn't rush down, this can definitely be done faster but we took our sweet time).
We went late October and there was quite some snow, so light crampons or some sort of traction is really helpful. We also had gaiters which helped, but I'm sure people will argue you don't necessarily need it. However, it's a hard hike and whatever helps, right? Totally worth every step though!

7 months ago

Awesome butt kick trail

8 months ago

Awesome hike but you better hope for a view when you get there. We car camped at the TH and was able to hit the trail at 6 am. I think 5 am would have been better for the next time though. The first two miles were through the woods at a nice grade providing a warm up for the tough hike to come. After popping out of the woods it endless rocks and ash. One should have gloves to protect themselves from the abrasive rocks. All you need to do now is follow the posts. The trail involves walking and squeezing through large rocks or on ash. There is no groomed trail here. The trail is easy to follow when there is good visibility as well. About a hour before the rim the wind picked up, which is pretty common. Just be prepared for the wind and some cold weather and you will be fine. There was really no snow that couldnt be avoided until the last few feet. I didnt use spikes but had them., some in my group used them though. On the descent they were more useful. Poles are a pain on the way up but useful on the way down.

I was there with a few friends and if it was summer and warmer no view wouldnt have been a big deal. Since I was there at this time of the year and it was cold and windy I am glad we had the view and not so sure I would have left the car if there was no visibility on top of the wind and weather.

8 months ago

Absolutely stunning views! Hit the trail head about 0615 & made it up to the summit about 4.5 hours later. This climb was the most challenging yet. Mentally and physically having to push myself to keep going. So happy for the reward at the top!
I suggest some experience with outdoors and hiking and moderate physical shape to complete this. Leave the dogs and kids at home!

8 months ago

We did this in 2015 in a down pour & high winds. It was terrifying (for me). We made it to the summit and I'm glad I pressed on to the top!

8 months ago

This is such an amazing climb. I trained for this all year pretty much and it was so worth it. I started at 5:40am. I wanted to give myself a full 12 hours to experience this. I wasn't going to rush to the top or break any records here. My husband walked me through the forest to as far as he could go then from there I was solo - only there are plenty of other people climbing it! The first part is easy as it's extremely level but after that it's pretty much straight up through a combination of rocks and ash. Then you hit the boulder field. What a work out. This made me wish I'd done more of an effort to lift weights or do more push ups in preparation for it but I managed through it just fine. The ash field is walking through sand up a steep hill. I found this the hardest part of the climb, mostly because it's frustrating. One step up, two steps back. Then there's the summit. It takes your breath away. The day I did it (Sept 3rd) the forest fires in Oregon had just started more or less and the smoke covered both Mt Adams and Rainier. We could also see smoke from the start of the eagle creek fire too. I sat and admired my view for about 25 minutes before heading back down. Took me about 7 hours to summit and 4 to get back down.

I took 6 liters of water with me plus an extra liter I hid in the tree line near the last toilet. Helped a lot on the way down
Also had gloves for the boulder fields as it's pumice and can cut up your hands.
Salt tablets helped too plus lots of snacks. I had so many I was able to share with a bunch of people too. Took 2 sandwiches and only ate one. I also drank a liter of water with nun before starting the hike.
Sunscreen. Lots of it.
Shorts to change into. Got so hot on the way down.
Sunglasses for sure.
It's a bucket list hike. Highly recommended!!

8 months ago

Consistently under reports mileage. Annette lake was actually 8.4 miles and lake serene was 9 miles. They under report mileage.

9 months ago

Hard is a good description for this trail. It's a nice forest stroll until you reach the timberline. After that, its a "boulder dash" until you reach the gravel/ash near the top. 100% worth the hike, though. You'll love it.

9 months ago

Lots of smoke in the area ,hard hike but worth the view, yesterday was my 2 nd time up there.

9 months ago

This climb is hard but totally worth it!

10 months ago

One of the hardest hikes I've ever done, but the view was amazing.

11 months ago

One of that hardest hikes I've ever done. Be prepared for climate change and rough terrain and must be in decent shape! The scenery is beautiful from the the beginning of the trailhead to the summit. Be sure to start early and bring lots of water as it does get warm towards the top.
I'd recommend an ice axe, crampons, and some good boots for the hike. Be sure to bring a sled or a plastic bag if you plan to slide down the mountain that way you don't scrape your bottom with the ice.
-my summit, July 7th.

11 months ago

Summited on July 4th from Climbers Bivouac even though it said it was closed on the website. Path was mostly easy to follow. Definitely bring crampons and sunscreen, use it often or wear loose breathable clothing. I'd bring no less than 3 liters water but 4-6 liters just to be safe. The pit toilet has new supplies and is open for business. Glisading was a blast though we summited late and the snow was a bit loose. If you can, pack in light snow pants or a huge black trash bag, the 30+ gallon kind... and Hpnotiq. Everyone loves Hpnotiq at the top! Even perfect strangers.

11 months ago

Made my first attempt at climbing a mountain on Sunday. Hardest thing I've ever done-moreso emotionally than physically. Missed the summit by a little over a mile. Will definitely be back next year to complete the journey.

11 months ago

Hiked to the summit yesterday. One of the most exhausting & rewarding hikes I've ever done. Make sure to bring gardening/work gloves, poles, and possibly spikes depending on whether or not you choose to walk through the snow. Bring more water than you think you'll need, and plenty of snacks.

The first couple of miles is very easy/moderate. The second and longest portion of the trail is a huge boulder field that you basically have to climb. The last mile is the most difficult, made up of loose soot and rock. It's very much 2 steps forward and 1 step back for this portion of the trail.

We started to climb back down, but eventually decided to glissade due to the tedious and exhausting descent. I wish we would have glissaded the whole way. It was much easier and the snow was deep enough to be safe.

Overall an amazing hike!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Amazing view. About the half way point we were hiking above the clouds. Hardest hike I've done so far. 10 hours round trip.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Did a while ago what an amazing view. Definitely a hard hike but worth it.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The most physically exhausting experience of my's a grueling climb, but amazing nonetheless. Fill your hydration pack and bring plenty of food. You'll need to refuel at the top.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

did this hike on 10-23-16 lots of snow and had to use snowshoes. clouds broke when we hit the summit, awesome views but very cold. wind chill was in the teens.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Did this October 10th this year during a downpour most the time and with snow and ice covering most of the boulder fields - made for a long day! Not
Much of a trail half way up and be ready to scramble and pay attention to avoid getting hurt.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

If you are a beginner mountaineer or an experienced hiker and are looking for an absolute thrill, this is for you. You need a permit that cost normally $23 and they start selling in February. The view is amazing at the top. Nothing I say on here will suffice, you just need to do it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

LOVED THIS HIKE! Permits are now bought online though, and can be printed out at home so no need to stop at the Lone Fir Resort. Ended up bringing too much water after reading the reviews here! It's a scramble on tough rock so bring warm gloves and/or gardening gloves (I brought both). We started our hike at 2AM and made it to the top to enjoy the sunrise. The wind was CRAZY at the top! But it was so beautiful! Bring layers and face layers (I had my buff and balaclava) because the dust and dirt get whipped around by the wind.

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