Hiking Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens in Washington is one of the most sought after summits in America nearly forty years after its eruption in 1980. The desirability of this hike is not without reason, as it is truly one of the most awe inspiring adventures one can experience in the great outdoors. Beginning on the standard route, Monitor Ridge, hikers start their journey in the midst of a cool, temperate forest. As the trail progresses, the lush vegetation is left behind for an otherworldly landscape of gray and black volcanic rock, pumice, and ash. Sweeping views of the Cascade Mountain range, including snow-capped peaks of distant volcanoes, add to the surreal feel of this stark but beautiful area. The photo gallery below showcases some of these breathtaking views.

Upon reaching the crater rim, hikers are rewarded for their efforts with a view over the 2,000 feet deep hole that was created by the eruption. At nearly two miles wide, this crater showcases the incredible power that was released from the volcano, devastating St. Helens. This was an awe inspiring moment for my family’s three-generation hike to the summit. See the pictures below for my reasoning behind including this hike in my list of “The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips.”

If you are hoping to climb Mount St. Helens, make sure to apply for a permit early. Due to the high popularity of this day hike, (nearly 14,000 people attempt it each year) the number of people that are hiking on any given day has to be controlled. This is done through a permit system for every hiker travelling above 4,800 feet. From April 1 to October 31, any hiker attempting this trek must purchase a permit for $22. While the price tag is not high, this backcountry permit is one of the most difficult to obtain in the United States.

The permits go on sale February 1, at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and can be purchased online. Limited numbers of permits are issued per day and sell out very quickly. The numbers are 100 permits per day from May 15 to October 31, and 500 permits per day from April 1 to May 14. Be sure to apply early because these permits will most likely be gone by early spring or even sooner. You can apply for Mount St. Helens permits at mshinstitute.org/explore/climbing-permits/purchasing-your-permits.html.

If you find yourself unable to secure a permit for your preferred dates, don’t give up hope. You can be placed on the waiting list and still have a chance to get a permit. Due to having to reserve permits so far in advance, many people that do obtain permits end up not being able to make the trip. This means that there are people out there who will be looking to sell their permits, and rules even prohibit them from raising the price above the standard $22.

So apply for a permit! Mount St. Helens is a once in a lifetime adventure that will bring you and your family lasting memories for years to come.

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