Summiting the Most Active Volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range is Epic with Recreation.gov and my724outdoors.com!

Summiting the Most Active Volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range is Epic with Recreation.gov and my724outdoors.com!

Climbing Mount St. Helens

BY CHELSEA MUISE, U.S. FOREST SERVICE

Best known as the site of the enormous 1980 volcanic eruption, Mount St. Helens offers a variety of recreation opportunities, including the chance to climb to the summit of the most active volcano in the Cascade Range.  Starting in lush Pacific Northwest forests, the route rises above the treeline, scrambles across volcanic boulder fields, and reaches the crater rim with a 360 degree view of the region.

Signature Features

Climbers nearing the summit of Mount St. Helens (MSHI)
Mount St. Helens (MSHI)

Mount St. Helens was once the fifth highest peak in Washington State, rising over 9,600 feet (3,000 m) above sea level. The mountain was a beautiful example of a symmetrical stratovolcano and was often referred to as the Mount Fuji of America. On May 18, 1980 a powerful volcanic eruption and the largest landslide in recorded history eliminated the top 1,300 feet (396 m) of the mountain, leaving a large horseshoe-shaped crater and devastating nearly 230 square miles (595 km²) of surrounding forest. 

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Today, Mount St. Helens offers a unique opportunity for climbers to view the devastating effects of the eruption and the continuing recovery of the landscape. Although not considered a technical climb, fields of snow, large boulder piles, loose ash and pumice, and quickly changing weather can make reaching the summit a challenge. Climbers should be in very good physical condition, well-equipped with appropriate gear, informed about possible volcanic hazards, and carry plenty of water and food.

Climbing to the summit of Mount St. Helens is a unique way for people to experience and appreciate the beauty of this amazing volcanic landscape.

REBECCA HOFFMAN, MOUNT ST. HELENS MONUMENT RANGER

Incredible Experiences

Dusk falls on a snow-covered Mount St. Helens (USFS)
Mount St. Helens (USFS)

In an effort to reduce crowding and protect natural features, the number of climbers per day on Mount St. Helens is limited from April 1 to October 31. Climbing permits for the limited use season are available online for advanced reservations beginning March 18, 2019.

Once on the summit, take-in the surrounding volcanic features and landscapes that make up the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, including:

  • Cascade Range peaks like Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mt. Hood
  • The crater formed by the 1980 landslide and eruption
  • Crater Glacier, the world’s newest glacier and one of the few expanding glaciers in the Cascade Range 
  • The floating log raft of Spirit Lake, made up of thousands of shattered trees from the 1980 eruption

For more information about the volcanic history and current scientific monitoring of the area, visit the Cascades Volcano Observatory website. 

Fun Facts

  • On May 18th, 1980 at 8:32 a.m. Mount St. Helens erupted. It was the most deadly eruption in the history of the United States.
  • Mount St. Helens reawakened in September 2004 and erupted continuously until January 2008.
  • Mount St. Helens is known as a world-famous natural laboratory for the study of Earth’s processes and also nature’s response to catastrophe.
  • Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was established in 1982 and is part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

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