By Michael Lanza
Four decades after it last erupted, Washington’s Mount St. Helens has become one of the most sought-after summits in the country—for good reason. Hikers on the standard Monitor Ridge route, on the mountain’s south side, emerge soon from the shady, cool, temperate rainforest onto a stark, gray and black moonscape of volcanic rocks, pumice, and ash, with little vegetation and sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains, including several other snow-covered volcanoes. The views could steal the breath from God.
From atop crumbling cliffs at the crater rim, hikers look out over the vast hole—2,000 feet deep and nearly two miles across—created by the 1980 eruption that decapitated St. Helens. Ice-capped volcanoes dominate three horizons: Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson. Scroll down to the photo gallery below from my family’s three-generation hike up St. Helens, and you’ll see why I consider it one of “The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips.”
A permit is required for every climber above 4,800 feet on Mount St. Helens. It costs $15/person for the permit plus $6 for every permit transaction. For the quota season of April 1 through Nov. 30, there are daily limits on the total number of climbers permitted on the mountain.
For each month during the quota season, permits go on sale at recreation.gov at 7 a.m. Pacific Time on the first day of the preceding month; for example, permits for hiking the mountain in July go on sale on June 1. Permits sell out very quickly. See fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fseprd528670 for information.
Read my story “Three Generations, One Big Volcano: Pushing Limits on Mount St. Helens,” about my family’s three-generation hike of Mount St. Helens, with more photos, a video, and tips on how to pull it off yourself.
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