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Mount St. Helens Hikes

Mount St. Helens National Monument is a destination that has something for everyone - short hikes and excellent visitor centers for families, moderate hikes with grand views for day hikers, and extremely difficult terrain and true solitude for backcountry enthusiasts.

In 1980, when Mount St. Helens famously erupted, no one could have dreamed of the magical hiking destination it would become. Over 200 miles of trails allow access to a fascinating landscape marked by gorgeous summer wildflowers, young forests, new lakes, huge mounds of ash and rock and a growing volcanic crater rimmed by the state's newest glacier.

Mount St. Helens National Monument offers short hikes and excellent visitor centers for families; moderate hikes with grand views for day hikers; and extremely difficult terrain and true solitude for backcountry enthusiasts. Each of the three access points is a gateway to a different experience and even long-time visitors will find something new in the hikes featured below. 

Tips for hiking at Mount St. Helens

  • Permits — Interagency or Northwest Forest Pass: Many trailheads in and around the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument require a Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency pass.

    Options for entry to the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center:
    -Interagency Annual and Senior pass
    -Northwest Forest Pass will grant access to one person
    -Day pass is $8 per person for those 16 and older and free for kids.

    In winter, when Johnston Ridge is closed, the Coldwater Visitor Center is open and free to visitors. 
  • Be prepared for the elements! With little tree-cover, hikers are exposed to the sun, the rain and especially the wind. Bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and layers to adjust to the changing conditions.
  • Carry lots of water. Water is scarce along many of the trails, so it is important to bring plenty of it with you.
  • Leave your pups at home. Due to the sensitive ecosystem, dogs are not allowed in many areas of the park. 

From the West

The west side of the Mount St. Helens National Monument was transformed by the 1980 eruption. Old growth forest gave way in an instant to the explosion and subsequent lahar and mudflow. A new lake was formed. Today, this area is one of the most popular entrances to the Monument, and it's easy to see why. Almost every mile of trail offers excellent views into the mouth of the crater and profuse wildflowers line the pumice plains and ridges.

Hummocks Trail

Location: Spirit Lake Highway 
Mileage:
2.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Hummocks Trail. Photo by Lebunnyman.jpeg
Hummocks Trail. Photo by trip reporter Lebunnyman.

Thirty years ago this was an old growth forest. Not anymore! While life has certainly returned to this valley, the landscape is now defined by towering mounds of ash, rock and mud.

This is a great trail to gain an appreciation of the devastating effects of the eruption of Mount St. Helens and to marvel at the vitality of nature's return. The loop trail takes you by small ponds, the North Fork Toutle River and hummock mounds up to 500 feet high.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Harry's Ridge

Location: Johnston Ridge Observatory 
Mileage:
8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Harry's Ridge. Photo by raring2hike.jpeg
View from Harry's Ridge. Photo by trip reporter raring2hike. 

This is a classic, leaving from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The hillsides are alive with wildflowers at mid-summer, and the view from the end of Harry's Ridge has you looking straight into the mouth of the crater. You have a direct view of Loowit Falls and an emerging glacier. Plus, incredible views of Spirit Lake, Mount Adams and even Mount Hood on a clear day.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Lakes Trail

Location: Spirit Lake Highway 
Mileage:
8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Lakes Trail. Photo by Niko Niko.jpeg
Lakes Trail. Photo by trip reporter Niko Niko. 

Believe it or not, Coldwater Lake didn't even exist before the 1980 eruption. The ancient forest that once towered here was blown away and dammed up Coldwater Creek. Now, a large and beautiful lake tempts visitors with fabulous hiking on both sides. This is also a great trail from which to view wildflowers and wildlife, especially elk. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Eruption Trail

Location: Johnston Ridge Observatory 
Mileage: 0.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 25 feet

Eruption Trail. Photo by raring2hike.jpeg
View from the observatory. Photo by trip reporter raring2hike. 

This is a barrier-free, paved hike of less than one mile from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The trail includes interpretive kiosks and 360 views of Mount St. Helens and the surrounding blast zone.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking guide


From the East

Trails accessed from the northeast offer a variety of habitat. Some areas were beyond reach of the blast and today enjoy the cool shade of ancient forests. Closer to Windy Ridge the topography changes considerably from ghostly Spirit Lake with silver logs still floating in its waters, to old trees all blown down in the same direction, and lots and lots of wind. This is the edge of the blast zone.

Meta Lake

Location: Randle Area 
Mileage:
1.3 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Meta Lake. Photo by ejain.jpeg
Meta Lake. Photo by trip reporter ejain. 

The trail to Meta Lake is short, sweet and paved - offering a barrier-free hike that is accessible for people in wheelchairs. Despite being in the blast zone, this area is defined by a young forest. These trees survived the eruption by being under a thick blanket of snow. The quiet lake is a fun destination for kids, especially in mid-summer when they can look for tadpoles and trout in its clear waters.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Norway Pass - Mount Margaret

Location: Randle Area 
Mileage:
4.4 miles, roundtrip to Norway Pass; 11 miles, roundtrip to Mount Margaret
Elevation Gain: 860 feet to Norway Pass; 1500 feet to Mount Margaret

Noway Pass. Photo by terradactyl.jpeg
View of Mount St. Helens from Norway Pass. Photo by terradactyl.

From the get-go, the short hike to Norway Pass is spectacular—witness the matchbook-blown forest, the incredible views to Rainier, Adams and Hood, and finally Mount St. Helens herself with ghostly Spirit Lake in the foreground. All of this while traipsing through beautiful wildflower fields along a windy ridge.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Plains of Abraham - Windy ridge loop

Location: Windy Ridge Viewpoint
Mileage: 8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2000 feet

Plains of Abraham. Photo by Zachary1992.jpeg
Wildflowers along the trail. Photo by trip reporter Zachary1992. 

It doesn't take long to get wide open views on this trail. Rainier and Adams are on full display as you climb a ridge with drop offs on either side. After this breathtaking section, drop down and see the flowers that are on display in the Plains of Abraham. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Truman Trail-Pumice Plains

Location: Randle Area 
Mileage:
10 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Truman Trail - Pumice Plains. Photo by lonerwolf.
Truman Trail - Pumice Plains. Photo by lonerwolf. 

This area was filled with 600 feet of mud from the landslide triggered by the Mount St. Helens eruption. Today, birds and wildlife abound on the plains. The trail descends directly into the blast zone, and continues by the crater. Rock, ash, and mud dominate the terrain for two miles until reaching the Pumice Plains by Spirit Lake. Alongside the lake, take in views of the volcano and the region impacted by the eruption.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


From the North 

Visiting Mount St. Helens from the north is a more remote experience. Many of these trails start outside the blast zone, and hikers have to work their way in, appreciating the stark change in scenery that much more. Views of the mountain in the distance, and longer approaches make for a rewarding exploration of a different side to this iconic volcano. 

Goat Mountain and Deadman's Lake

Location: Randle Area 
Mileage: 11.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2400 feet

Goat Mountain and Deadmans Lake. Photo by mboderck.jpeg
Goat Mountain and Deadman's Lake. Photo by gspdodger.

Begin this hike outside the blast zone and work your way to that boundary. Starting out with a steep climb, this trail crests a ridge which stretches out for the remainder of the hike. Stay high and take in views of Mount Rainer and Mount Adams, or drop down to Deadman's Lake. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Goat Creek Loop

Location: Morton Area
Mileage: 20.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3200 feet

Goat Creek Loop. Photo by Johnco.jpeg
Goat Creek Loop. Photo by trip reporter johnco. 

This backpacking loop will take you through the northern reaches of Mount St. Helens. It works well as a two-day trip, with a challenging first day and a leisurely second. Start outside the blast zone, circling through it as you pass lakes, waterfalls and mossy creeks. This is also the approach for Vanson Peak

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Green River 

Location: Randle Area
Mileage: 11.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 940 feet 

Green River. Photo by MeatMan.jpeg
Green River. Photo by trip reporter MeatMan. 

This trail will plunge hikers into the shady forest above the Green River. Enjoy the display of water as you you hop across creeks and marvel at twinkling waterfalls. Those who keep going will be rewarded with a grove of old growth that survived the 1980 eruption. Take your time walking under these giants. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


From the South

The south side of Mount St. Helens was left almost untouched by the events of May 18, 1980, but has been sculpted by other lava flows over the centuries. Hikers here will get a completely different experience with caves, canyons, forests and access to the crater rim.

June Lake

Location: Outside the town of Cougar 
Mileage: 2.86 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 445 feet

June Lake. Photo by Shaniah.jpeg
June Lake in the winter. Photo by trip reporter Shaniah. 

June Lake is a great option for families, or those looking for the shortest access to the Loowit trail, which circumnavigates St. Helens. In any case, it's a gem where you can rest while watching a waterfall on the distant shore of the lake. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Lava Canyon

Location: Outside the town of Cougar 
Mileage:
5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1600 feet

Lava Canyon. Photo by TravelerTed.jpeg
Suspension bridge on the Lava Canyon Trail. Photo by trip reporter TravelerTed. 

If you’re a thrill seeker, look no further than Lava Canyon. Starting on a paved interpretive trail, this route crosses a springy suspension bridge before plunging into the Lava Canyon Gorge. At the bottom of the gorge (a descent which includes climbing down a 30-foot ladder), the trail winds along a steep and narrow section, passing “The Ship” spur trail, which leads to scenic views of nearby waterfalls. On top of being an exhilarating trip, the trail offers a unique perspective on the power of volcanic eruptions: the gorge was filled by sediment until it was scoured clean by lahar flows during the 1980 eruption.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Butte Camp

Location: Outside the town of Cougar 
Mileage:
5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Butte Camp. Photo by akzander06.jpeg
Butte Camp Photo by trip reporter akzander06. 

For those looking for an easy outing or short overnight, Butte Camp offers impressive bang for your buck. In only 2.5 miles, the trail passes through stately native forests and dramatic lava beds and fields of wildflowers with grand views of Mount St. Helens. Use Butte Camp as a turnaround point, or make camp and explore the Loowit Trail, which is just another mile up Butte Camp Dome. Permits are not needed here!

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Climbing Mount St. Helens

Monitor Ridge 

Location: Outside the town of Cougar 
Mileage:
10 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4500 feet

Monitor Ridge. Photo by Strider.jpeg
Trail up Monitor Ridge. Photo by trip reporter Strider. 

Make no mistake. Climbing to the summit of Mount St. Helens is exhausting business. But the happy news for non-climbers is that you can reach the top without technical skills, making this singular experience within reach for hearty hikers willing to endure several miles of boulder fields and ash climbing. It's amazing and awe-inspiring to stand on the rim of this not-so-quiet volcano and watch geology in the making. 

Permits are required to climb to the summit and are available online from the Mount St. Helens Institute after February 1. Plan early if you want to climb the volcano during the peak season or on weekends.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Worm Flows Route 

Location: Outside the town of Cougar 
Mileage: 12 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 5699 feet

Worms Flows. Photo by TheDirtBaguette.jpeg
Worm Flows Route. Photo by trip reporter TheDirtBaguette. 

This is the go-to route to the summit when Mount St. Helens is covered in snow. It is direct, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Long miles of snow travel can be grueling, but luckily this route is not too technical. It is considered a good intro to mountaineering, and the views at the top are stunning. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Long Trails Around the Mountain 

Loowit Trail

Location: Windy Ridge 
Mileage: 32 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 6000 feet

Loowit Trail. Photo by Britt Le.jpeg
Views from Castle Ridge. Photo by Britt Le. 

The Loowit trail circumnavigates Mount St. Helens in around 32 miles. To be sure, this is a challenging route becauase the trail climbs in and out of the many gullies that form the flanks of this mountain. Conditions are shifting in these environments, so some route finding is necessary. No other trail will give you such a comprehensive look at this iconic mountain. 

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Boundary Trail 

Location: Various
Mileage: 57 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 12,300 feet

Boundary Trail. Photo Lebunnyman.jpeg
View from Norway Pass along the Boundary Trail. Photo by trip reporter Lebunnyman.

The Boundary Trail runs generally east-west through the varied landscapes on the north side of Mount St. Helens. It is a route that connects multiple trail segments, and offers access to countless junctions, detours, and loop options.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide