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Hiking Mount St Helens

On Saturday, June 24th, we took on the challenge of Hiking Mount St. Helens via the Worm Flows Route. Technically, the Worm Flows Route is the Winter route, but it was our only option due to a road closure on the way to the Climber's Bivouac caused by too much snow. If you're looking for information on Hiking Mount St Helens via the Climber's Bivouac Route, I have done that hike three times in the summer and found the Worm Flows Route to have many similarities. With that said, I hope you find this blog and video helpful in outlining what the 12-mile, 5700 feet of elevation gain Mount St Helens hike looks like!




Hiking Mount St Helens

Overall, the hike took us just over 5 hours to reach the summit and about 3 hours to get down. As you'll see in the video above and photos below, we were able to glissade (and ski) down a few thousand feet, which helped make the return trip quite a bit quicker! Hiking Mount St Helens is a fantastic experience; ensure you're up for the challenge. If you have any questions about the hike, let me know in the comments, and I'd be happy to answer them!


Camping & Registering Your Permit

We spent the Friday night before our hike camping right by the trailhead in the Marble Mountain Snow Park Overflow Lot, conveniently located by the Worm Flow Trailhead. When you commit to Hiking Mount St Helens, you're signing up for a long hike with minimal shade, so you want to get started early. We set our alarms for 4 30 a.m and were ready to go by 5:15 a.m.


Camping at Mount St Helens
Camping at Marble Mountain Snow Park


*Important, before setting off on the trail, you'll need to register your group at the trailhead based on the name your permit is under. Yes, permits are required to hike Mount St. Helens! They are pretty easy to get, but they require some planning in advance, and they are released in one-month increments on the first day of the preceding month. You can grab your permits at Recreation.gov here. If you're reading this and realizing your SOL and don't have enough time to grab a permit, I would pop over to All Trails and leave a comment saying you are looking for permits; you might get lucky!

Registering Hiking Permit at Worm Flows Trailhead
Registering Our Permit at the Trailhead


Starting The Hike

Once you've registered your group at the trailhead, the type two fun can begin! The first two miles of the Worm Flows Trail start relatively flat and shaded. You'll see a few different trails, but follow the signs and the blue trail markers, and you'll easily find your way on the hike. Since we were hiking in June after a very good snow year, we knew there would be some snow left on the trail, and sure enough, just after one-mile in, we came across our first snow patch, but it was super easy to walk along the snow patch at this point.



hiking over a snow patch in the trees
Some small snow patches in the trees


At 2.2 miles and 860 feet of elevation (according to my Apple watch) into the hike you'll emerge from the trees and get your first view of Mount St Helens. As we exited the trees, the sun was coming up over the ridge, burning through the fog and making for some beautiful morning scenery.



A view of Mount St Helens amongst Fog
The first views of Mount St Helens


As you continue hiking, you'll stroll alongside a small canyon with a waterfall and river flowing through. At this point, the trail gets a bit rockier, and a small creek crossing is required. After crossing, you'll see a few signs for the Loowit Trail, so make sure you follow the Worm Flow signs. It's pretty self-explanatory.



A creek crossing above Chocolate Falls
The creek crossing above Chocolate Falls


Enter Scrambletown

At this point, the trees start to get much smaller, and your shade disappears, and at about three miles in, the games begin. The trail starts to get steeper, and you enter what we like to call 'Scrambletown,' meaning big rocks and various options for routes.



5 people hiking mount st helens
The trail starts to get steeper...


At 3.4 miles in, my watch read that we had climbed about 2,000 feet in elevation, which leaves a lovely 3,700 feet for the next 2.6 miles. As you continue through Scrambletown, you'll walk along a ridgeline where a plateau taunts you about half a mile ahead as a perfect

snack and refueling spot.


5 people hiking along a ridge on Mount St Helens
Enter Scrambletown. The top of the ridge = rest!



At 3.8 miles and 2500 feet of elevation, you can start to catch your first glimpses of Mount Adams to your right and Mount Hood directly behind you.



Views of Mount Adams as seen from mount st helens
Views of Mount Adams


Now, the higher you go, the looser the footing gets with leftover ash from the St Helens Eruption making it feel like you're trudging along very slowly at times, but keep grinding, and at four miles and 2,900 feet of elevation, you'll hit the weather station, where you can reward yourself with a well-earned snack and breather.


5 people hiking mount st helens
Continuing on the dirt path, surrounded by snow



Once you're feeling (somewhat) refreshed, you'll continue right back into scramble town for the next 1/3 of a mile. At 4.3 miles and 3,200 feet of elevation, we hit a spot where the trail turned to snow.


*Again, we did this hike on June 24th, so the snow maybe be different for you! When hiking Mount St Helens in August and September, you likely won't have any snow at all*


At this point, the trail was flat enough where crampons weren't needed (yet), and after crossing the snow patch, you could continue hiking up on the snow or hop back onto the dirt trail. If you wanted to go the snow hiking route, the snow had some solid footholds.



5 people hiking on snow mount st helens
Forced onto the snow, but it was mellow


Once you hit 5 miles, You'll have climbed about 3,900 feet of elevation. This means you have one mile and about 1700 feet of elevation to go (gulp)! At this point, you can continue hiking on scramble-town like I did, where the ash gets a little tricky and slides down as you step on it, or if you have crampons like most of my group did, you could strap them on and walk up the snow. This time of year, microspikes work as well.


a hiker uses crampons to walk in the snow
Making good use of the crampons

Eventually, we got a clear view of the end of the road for the dirt hiking trail, and at 5.5 miles and 4,600 feet of elevation, we hit the end of that dirt road. From here, you have to walk on snow, but as I mentioned previously, the snow has plenty of footholds from people walking both up and down, so it's not too difficult to walk on. However, microspikes or crampons would help you keep your footing as you climb.



A snowfield on mount st helens
The end of the dirt road! A well traveled path awaits


It doesn't take long to hike along the final snow patch, and as you get to the top of it, you'll see the home stretch to the summit. The top of the snow patch presented one last excellent spot for a break before completing the remaining 1,000 feet to the summit.



a man with ski hikes on mount st helens
Hiking with a beautiful view of Mount Adams


The Home Stretch

For this final climb, we had the option of hiking on snow or dirt. If you have the proper gear like crampons or micro spikes, as I mentioned, the snow is the better option as you can get more grip compared to the ash, where every time you step on the ash, your foot is guaranteed to slide down a little bit. It's kind of like two steps forward and one step back. No matter what route you pick, keep climbing; you will be at that top before you know it.



5 people hike to the summit of mount st helens
The final climb! Are you taking the snow or dirt?

5 people hike to the summit of mount st helens
The final countdown


At the Summit of Mount St Helens, you can take in views of Mount Hood, Adams, and Rainier, and of course, the crater left by the eruption of Helens is quite a crazy sight. Enjoy those celebratory beverages and snacks at the summit - you'll have earned it!



A man overlooks the summit of mount st helens
The summit!

Mount Rainier as see from the summit of Mt St Helens
Mount Rainier as see from the summit


Glissading and Skiing Down (If Possible)

On the way down, if there's enough snow, give those legs a rest and glissade down! Pro tip: snow pants are helpful for glissading, and you'll want an ice axe or something similar to control your speed as you're going down the mountain. Or, if you made it to the summit with your skis, enjoy some well-earned turns like my buddy Mike and myself did! We managed to ski over 2,000 feet down the mountain; whew, was it a fantastic experience!



A woman glissades down mount st helens
Glissading down, with a views of Mount Adams

a woman glissades down mount saint helens
The glissade continues


Anyways, thanks for reading/watching. If you're wondering what gear you need for the hike (crampons, ice axe, snow pants, etc.), I will leave some suggestions below. I hope you found this post and video helpful, and good luck on hiking Mout St Helens! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below, and I'd be happy to answer them. Cheers!


Gear That You May Not Have Thought Of!

*If you don't want to buy crampons, ice axe, etc, you can usually find rentals at REI or any other local outdoor recreation store.*

  • Crampons - Only needed if you're hiking before August, but check recent reviews to be sure!

  • Microspikes - If you want something a little less aggressive than Crampons

  • Hiking Poles - Super helpful in the snow and ash. If you want to save money, you can use ski poles too.

  • Ice Axe - Helpful going up in the snow and going down while glissading

  • Snow Pants - Only if you plan to Glissade down

  • Puffy Jacket - It can be chilly up top, so good to have it just in case.

  • Supportive Hiking Shoes - Sneakers won't cut it!

  • Electrolytes - My favorite brand is LMNT. If you're like me, you need more than water to stay hydrated.

  • Insulated Koozie - Gotta keep those celebratory beverages cold!

  • Peak Camera Clip - If you're like me and take way too many photos, this clip is essential for keeping your camera easily accessible.


A collage of images from hiking mount st helens





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about

Sierra Lifestyle

Hi, I'm Connor - a big skier who's had his share of life-altering injuries. I've turned my passion for the mountains into a lifestyle blog where I talk about outdoor adventures, injury prevention and recovery, and life hacks. Let me inspire you with stories, photos, and advice. 

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