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This is a summertime out-and-back route to Mount St. Helens' crater rim. A permit is required.

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Out and Back

8,232' 2,509 m


3,771' 1,149 m


4,489' 1,368 m


4,488' 1,368 m



Avg Grade (11°)


Max Grade (39°)

Dogs No Dogs

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All hikers must have a permit above Loowit #216: Ptarmigan - June Lake.


This is the primary summer route for accessing the South Rim of Mount St. Helens. To do this route, you must have a permit, and those run out fast. We started this hike at 1 a.m. and completed it in 4 hours – yes it's that tough. So, what do you get for this hard work? An absolutely amazing view of the crater, dome, and surrounding area. I hear on a clear day you can see Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Portland as well.

Need to Know

Coming up at night and down in the relatively cool early morning, you'll easily burn through two quarts of water, and wish for a third. Any summer ascent up here should be made with a gallon per person, and from how fast it got warm at 8 a.m., it must be roasting by afternoon.

Be realistic about your fitness–even at a slow pace, this is an extremely challenging hike. Other than heaps of water, I recommend leather or garden gloves to save your hands through the boulder field, as these volcanic boulders can be very sharp! Hiking poles looked like they we're helpful, though I didn't have any.

Gaiters are a nice on this route to prevent volcanic debris from entering your shoes and shredding your feet.

Warm gear is a must for hanging out at the top if you arrive pre-sunrise and need to wait a bit; no matter what time of year, the wind up here is always cold.


In the first 2(ish) miles, you'll steadily gain about 1000 ft through a lovely pine forest. The next 2(ish) miles are tough going, navigating a boulder field while climbing another 2500 ft. The last mile(ish) is best described as a slog up another 1000 ft on loose dirt, ash, and pumice.

The first section is a well-traveled trail through the beautiful forest up to the treeline. From there, the next section is through boulders and is marked by vertical posts every 100 yards or so. You'll be picking your own route through the bolder field, but keep following the posts. This may be challenging in low visibility conditions, but on a clear night we had no troubles keeping to the route. Going too far off route early in the season, you may run into some snow fields, but getting back to the route should be straightforward. After reaching the end of the boulder field, your route is primarily just slogging through the pumice and ash to the rim.

Descend along the same route you went up. The route is well traveled and popular during the day.


Shared By:

Chris Flashhard

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 23 votes


  4.7 from 23 votes
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in Washington


14 Views Last Month
4,766 Since Aug 8, 2017
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Rainier (left) and Adams (right) from the top of the St. Helens Caldera.
Dec 13, 2017 near Morton, WA
Summit of Mt St Helens, Washington
Jul 30, 2017 near Morton, WA
Crater of Mt. St. Helen's with Rainier in the distance
Jan 10, 2021 near Morton, WA
Lava Dome with steam vent in lower right center.
Jul 10, 2020 near Morton, WA
Looking north. On a clear day Mt. Rainier
Aug 8, 2017 near Morton, WA


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Sep 10, 2023
Mark Slifka
Aug 1, 2023
Florian Jaeger
6h 18m
Jul 15, 2022
Lane B
group of 8. beautiful weather. bring sunscreen. cold at the top. 9mi — 8h 30m
Aug 28, 2021
David Sanchez
Sep 15, 2020
Jeremy K
Smoky haze, but the sun made an effort. Visibility severely impaired, as the opposing crater walls looked like silhouettes, amidst the haze — 8h 51m
Aug 24, 2020
Abby Winters
Aug 2, 2020
Michael Young
Jul 18, 2020
Jay Lewis
Be careful on the return. It's easy to lose sight of the navigation poles. Also, pace yourself, even in the forest. 10.2mi — 8h 30m

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