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Mount Saint Helens Summit via Ptarmigan Trail is a 8.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Cougar, 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.

Length 8.2 mi Elevation gain 4,583 ft Route type Out & Back

Backpacking

Hiking

Nature trips

Rock climbing

Skiing

Snowshoeing

Bird watching

Forest

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Rocky

Scramble

Snow

Fee

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (7)
Facilities
Contact
Tips
Getting There

There is a $5 fee to park at the trailhead. Other passes include: America the beautiful ($80/yr), Northwest Forrest ($30/yr) A summit/climbing pass is required above the timberline, so get one and get your slog on! In the summer, this is a nice and tough hike. In the winter, it can be turned into a snowshoe/climbing route. Permits are now obtained online. There are 2 primary routes: the "summer" (Monitor Ridge) route starts at the Climber's Bivouac trailhead. The "winter" (Worm Flows) route trailhead is at Marble Mountain Sno-Park. The weather forecast should be checked prior to climbing. It's best to start very early in the morning for either route. Both climbs rise 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 these climbs is a must. At the summit, you have amazing views as long as there are no clouds. Glissading makes the trip much faster coming down as long if there is enough snow. Great trip overall. Recommend climbing in spring or early summer right around the time that the Climber's Bivouac opens. The Worms Flows (Marble Mountain Sno-Park) is an option if winter snows have made Climber's Bivouac inaccessible. Although strenuous, both of these non-technical climbing routes are 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.

There's ample parking at both Climber's Bivouac and Marble Moiuntain; NW forest pass required. (A temp forest pass comes with your climbing permit too.) There are two pairs of bathrooms at Climber's Bivouac, and *zero* sources of water. If you're camping the night before for an early ascent, make sure to bring your own water. Climber's Bivouac has many terrific campsites, enjoy!

Plan this trip in advance and bring the correct equipment.

To reach the trailhead, located at the Climbers' Bivouac: 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. This is a gravel road. Follow this to the large trailhead parking lot. A NW Forrest Service pass is required to park here.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (966)
Photos (1108)
Recordings (701)
Completed (1801)
Andrew Kaylor
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Hiking

Hello, I am looking for 2 or 3 climbing permits for any day in the next two months. Please reach out if you have any available permits. andrewskaylor@gmail.com. Also does anyone know why there aren’t any permits available for the next 5+ years at recreation.gov?

Nadia Pope
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 13, 2020
Hiking

Hi! I am looking for 1 permit for September 1-3, but preferably September 2nd for my 35th birthday! Please let me know! nadiapope@me.com

Josh Olsen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 12, 2020
Hiking

Hey, I might have an extra permit for Monday, August 24th. If interested, email- joryol2006@gmail.com

Pacific Hiker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 11, 2020
HikingFeeGreat!RockyScramble

For those asking for permits it will not work. Names need to be put on the permit 7 days in advance. The forest service can still cite you if your name is not on the permit. I went Aug 8th and they were checking everyone's permit and ID. Just a friendly warning.

Hannah Bauer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 11, 2020
HikingGreat!Rocky

This hike is amazing. We went on August 9th and started at 7am with a mixed ability group. Group members got to the top 11:30-12:30 (4.5-5.5 hours) and we finished at 4:15pm (3 or so hours down). The way up is 2 miles of forest, 2ish miles of climbing rocks, and the last bit is hiking up a hill of ash. Bring poles, gardening gloves, and 4 liters or so of water! Not for the faint of heart. I would say this hike is extreme with the climbing and careful footing hikers need to have. Overall one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done!

Anthony Hobbs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 11, 2020
Hiking

Looking for 2 permits for September, anywhere between 14th-27th! Preferably a weekend but will take what I can get! Please email anthonyhobbs91@gmail.com Thanks in advance :)

Sean Coyne
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 10, 2020
Hiking

Looking for 1 permit to hike this trail. If you know of anyone backing out or unable to go please contact me at seancoyne92@gmail.com. Thankyou!

Jake Ryan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 10, 2020
Hiking

Anyone not making their reservation this weekend? August 15th? LOOKING FOR 2 PERMITS! Plz and ty email: justjakeryan@gmail.com

Christian Bush
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 10, 2020
Hiking

If anyone has 1 or 2 permits for sale please text me at 360-508-5705. Thank you!!!!

Pacific Hiker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 9, 2020
Hiking

Climbed this for third time yesterday. Started at 3am and summited just before 9am. Was too cold and windy to stay long at top. Was all clouded in. This is one reason why I keep climbing the mounting. Yesterday was a new experience and I enjoyed it. Previous time was 100 degrees and no wind. This time was 46 degrees with 20 mile winds. The clouds would roll in below us, above us and right at us. It was surreal. We were prepared. Didn’t think we would have cold climb in August but we did. We introduced it to 7 first time climbers and they all summited. Even two 11.5 year old girls. Was just awesome. They were in second group that started at 6am. Enjoy your climb.

Becca Roskill
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 9, 2020
Hiking

Please contact me if you have a pass for 2+ people in late August! beccaroskill@gmail.com

Britt Allen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 9, 2020
Hiking

Pretty hard hike, compared to Mt Defiance, Helen's was definitely harder, so glad we did this. the weather was perfect boulders were long. 5 hours up 4 hours 20 down breaks included started at 2:05 am-- completed at 11:19am gloves recommended for boulders head lamp perfect sunglasses /neck gater-- for the top, heavy winds, hurt when the ash hit your skin hiking poles were helpful sunscreen ibuprofen/ice for the aftermath #beautifulDisaster

View Britt's Recording
Mark Olson
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Hiking
View Mark's Recording
Laura Arandia
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Does anyone have 2 or 4 extra permit slots for the end of the month? Early sept? Please contact me! Lmbarandia@gmail.com

Megan Meric
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 7, 2020
HikingFeeGreat!RockyScramble
View Megan's Recording
Torry Chen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 6, 2020
HikingGreat!

Did the hike today, very enjoyable! It's difficult but the views are incredible! Be sure to bring sunglasses, sunblock, plenty of water, and a jacket for the top (it gets windy!). The road to the trail head is in good condition and the trail itself is well marked. I started at 4:15ish and got to see a great sunrise over Mt. Adams - would definitely recommend an earlier start to avoid the heat while on the scree/boulder fields.

Robbie Wilbur
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 4, 2020
Hiking

This was my first time climbing Mount St. Helens and it was a blast! I did it solo (a permit became available yesterday and I jumped on the opportunity as I’ve been checking for the last week or so for a permit to open up). I started at 6am and finished at 11:30am. The weather was perfect for the hike. If I would’ve started at 8am I feel like it would’ve been too hot on the way back down. I underestimated the last 1.5mi. I thought it would be easier for some reason, but the ash/gravel was tough to navigate. The views at the top were epic! I was bummed that there wasn’t a clear view of Mt. Rainier or Mt. Adams, but I wasn’t willing to wait for the clouds to burn off to see them clearly. It was getting warm and I didn’t want to get stuck in the sun. I will definitely do it again next year and I highly recommend for anyone considering it!

View Robbie's Recording
Sarah Rubin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 3, 2020

if anyone has a permit they'd be willing to sell or rent (if its a year round) for the week of august 11th please let me know! 5053211227 or Rubin.sarah5@gmail.com

Christina Markin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 1, 2020
HikingBugsFeeNo shadeRockyScramble

Need an America the beautiful ($80/yr), northwest Forrest ($30/yr) or day ($5/day) pass to park here. If going with a day pass there is a fee pay station at this TH. Also need a permit to hike above 4000 feet from April 1rst to October 31rst. These permits go on sale March 18th at recreation.gov and sellout pretty fast. Visited here 7/30 to 7/31/2020 Thursday and Friday. Road in is gravel with steep drop offs and about a lane and a half, luckily we didn't have to pass anyone in the sections with steep drop offs. There are some potholes and lots of washboard. The signs are easy to follow and Google directions are accurate. Lots of parking, camping at the TH and dispersed camping along the road to the TH. No handicap parking and would not recommend for handicap or young children as there is difficult terrain and steep drop offs, with slippery sand. Several camp spots around the road across from the TH as well as several in the Forrest by the main bathroom (two Vaulted toilets fairly clean). There is also one vaulted toilet in the camp area turn around. Camp sites have metal fire rings and a designated tent pad. We left our tents (empty) in our spots Friday while we attempted a Summit and the tents/vehicles were safe upon return. We arrived Thursday at 2:15pm, there was several parking spaces and tent sites open. I think by 9pm the last one along the loop was taken. Can get loud as everyone is in fairly close proximity, but there is a lot of privacy to each tent site. Bugs at tents sites, but I did not have any bites. There is a climber log book at the TH to fill out as well as grab a poop sack if you've not done your poo. All poo must be packed out including human poo. Poo bags are provided near the TH as well as a poo dumpster right next to the bag dispenser, drop your poo there on the way out. The bathroom on the trail near the loowit junction is closed. Make sure to pack it in pack it out, leave no trace and leave the trails better than you found them. On Thursday EMTs we're at the TH to treat a woman that was severely dehydrated on the trail. We started on the trail at 1:10am. My friend had a permit. Bring a lot of water in summer months. I had 4 litres on me and that was not enough for me. It was very hot and humid in the forrest with a lot of bug activity, but nothing that bites luckily, just annoying. The Forrest area is a steady incline with some big log steps as well as rooty steps. We made it to the Boulder field just in time for Sunrise. The Boulder field is tough and long, there is a route to the left downhill from the Cairns in a wash, that is much easier traveling than up above. We did not get past the Boulder field as I had ran out of water (3litres) before the false summit and was on my backup 2litres, not enough water to summit and get back down safely when you factor in the heat. We had about 2 miles to go to get to the summit with over 1600ft EG and the most difficult terrain of the trail. Remember take the trail to your right on the way down much easier on the body, unless you want a challenge. Don't rely on the Cairns to hold your body weight. Bring gardening gloves, those Boulders are abrasive as well as gaiters (sand will makes its way in your shoes otherwise. We did not see a ton of people on the trail, probably under 50. Dogs are allowed but must be on leash. We saw 2 dogs in the Forrested area. 6.18 miles with 2710 ft elevation gain in 5hrs 32 mins moving time.

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