South Washington Cascades

Mt. St. Helens climber route

Length: 9.5 round trip miles
Low Point: 3740'
High Point: 8365'
Season: Spring/Summer/Fall
Scenery: 0/5

Difficulty: 0/5

Submitted by: Kevin and Barbara


To get to the Climbers Biovac, take I=5 to Woodland, Washington and follow the road to Cougar. About 2 miles east of Cougar you will see sign to Climbers Biovac, which is where the trail starts.

Trail Description

This is one tough trail. Having climbed other mountains, I was surprised how much work went into this climb.

The trail starts at the 3,740 foot elevation mark on the south side of Mt. St. Helens. Remember you have to make reservations before you can climb the mountain. At this time, the Forest Service only allows 100 people on the mountain at a time, and if you don't have a pass on you, expect a fine.

In the first 2 1/4 miles of the trip, you will hike though a forest and gain 1,100 feet in elevation. Take advantage of this section, because the rest of the climb in slow.

Once you leave the forest, you immediately start boulder scrambles. This takes place for the next 1 3/4 miles. In that time period, you gain 2,500 feet in elevation. This is a brutal section of the trail, taking around 3 1/2 hours for the average person. Once thought the boulders, you will be at 7,300 feet in elevation.

The final section is a 1,000 foot slow walk through ash and scree If you have climbed South Sister, this section will be familiar to you. Once at the top, this tough climb is all worth it. The views are stunning, and at this time the mountain is active. You should be able to see steams coming off the new crater and the developement of the Fin. Rock falls are common on the inside of the crater, and provide great entertainment.

On the trail down, dig in your heals, and ride the scree down. Once down to the boulders, take some side trails and find some more soft scree to make the trip quicker.

Total route for us: 5 1/2 hours up, 3 hours down.