Mount Saint Helens via Worm Flows Route

9 reviews #1 hike out of 114 in
4.8 mi
Distance
1 hrs 37 min
Time
terrain
5,515 ft
Elev Gain

Overview

This is a great introduction to mountaineering for new climbers! Do not let 'non-technical' fool you, Mt. Saint Helens is still a major climb and requires adequate fitness and preparedness. Weather can change in a moment, so do not leave the jackets at home with even with a perfect forecast. Expect high winds and changing conditions, but also a fun climb and tremendous achievement!

This climb is 12 miles round trip and gains 5,699 to the true summit. Under no circumstances should you be within 5 feet of the crater rim.

Winter climbers can self-issue their permits at the Climber's Bivouac trailhead. No fee is required for permits between November 1 and March 31. If you'd like to summit St. Helens in the spring, summer, or fall, a paid permit is required. Learn more by visiting their website.

Getting Started

Park at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park to access the winter trailhead. You will need to purchase a sno park parking pass which can be done online or locally at posted stores on the way up to the trailhead. It is recommended to do this ahead of time.

The Worm Flows Climbing Route, from Marble Mountain Snow-Park, is the most direct route to the summit of Mount St. Helens during the winter season. Ice axe, crampons, and avalanche awareness are recommended on this route. Skis with climbing skins or snow shoes with cleats are also highly recommended. Looking for the summer route? Find it here.

Named for the rivers of rocky lava that surround the trail, the 10.8-mile Worm Flows route ascends nearly 5,700 feet to the summit of Mount St. Helens. Although challenging, this standard winter and spring route provides a non-technical climb for experienced hikers craving sweet summit views and a chance to practice basic mountaineering skills.

Start at the Marble Mountain Sno Park. Cross to the west side of Swift Creek, just above Chocolate Falls, at an elevation of 3,700 feet. Follow ridges and open slopes to the crater rim. Wooden route marking posts guide climbers from timberline to approximately 4,800 feet of elevation. About two miles in, leave the forest and pass views of Chocolate Falls, a 40-foot waterfall along Swift Creek, heading into a barren landscape of mudflows and rock, where large posts and occasional cairns mark the way. Navigate through the jumbled lava flows, then push beyond cloud level toward St. Helens' false summit.

The route crests the crater's crescent-shaped rim, revealing dramatic views of Spirit Lake and Mount Rainier. But you're not finished yet. Head west along the rim to the true summit, a mound of rocks at 8,365 feet. Savor more sweet views before turning around for the return trip back to the trailhead.

Hike safely - to reduce your exposure to avalanche potential, stay away from snow loaded slopes and gully bottoms. Stay off the cornices at the crater rim.

Taking Children

Be careful bringing children on this hike, due to shifting conditions there is potential for small avalanches. Be careful to stay off the cornices at the crater rim.


Sights to See


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    user_profile stars
    5 months, 2 weeks ago
    Did this one in July, check the conditions of the snow/ice before glissading down. If it's still icy in the early morning, walk down instead of sliding.
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

    user_profile stars
    6 months, 2 weeks ago
    Up at 2:30am, we signed in at the trail register at 4am (mandatory to do this, as well as carrying the permit you were issued ahead of time). Got to the summit around 10am, with a few gear adjustments and snack breaks on the way up. Weather changes quickly so come prepared for anything. If you're going to glissade please research proper techniques as we saw many people who were holding their axe in ways that could have caused horrific injuries. You do not want the pick of the axe in your thigh or chest!
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

    user_profile
    6 months, 3 weeks ago
    We camped at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park parking lot the night before and started our ascent on the Worm Flows Winter trail at 4:15 AM. We began the hike with micro spikes and did not take them off for the duration of the trip. The moon was bright but we still used our headlamps until about 5:45 when the sunrise was bright enough to light the path. After timberline, we were above the clouds and the sunrise was absolutely stunning. After reaching the "permit required" at about 3 miles up, it was a stair stepping climb of 5,500 feet to the summit. There is a false summit and only 650 feet more of elevation gain until the true summit. We were lucky to go on a sunny day with footholds in a majority of the snow pack up. Wear sunscreen! We reached the summit at 9:30 AM. The views were well worth the climb and there was a cornice that we needed to be careful of but otherwise, there were views of Adams, Hoood, and Rainier in addition the astounding layer of clouds and peeping holes of the mountains/lakes below. We had never tried glissading but once we got the hang of it, it was by far the easiest way down. Be sure to bring waterproof pants and an ice axe but due to the steep grade of the trail on snow/ice, walking would have been much more dangerous. There were TONS of hikers/skiers ascending as the snow started to soften during our descent and we were grateful to have started early enough where the snow was hard and easy to trek across. After glissading down 6,000 feet or so, we walked the additional 2 miles back to the parking lot and returned at 1:45 PM.
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Public Tracks

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Ralph Daub 3 years, 6 months ago
2016-05-08 - Mt Saint Helens (mother's day - snowboarding)
Mt. Saint Helens on Mother's day is a yearly tradition. Up to 500 climbers make their way up the mountain wearing dresses and carrying flowers. Conditions started off foggy and overcast for the first 1/3 of the way up. The sun broke out shortly after the weather station, coincidentally. The rest of the ascent was perfectly clear, bluebird visibility. Summit was windy, with forecast predicting gusts of around 25mph. The high spirits the climbers warm and fuzzy inside. The descent on a snowboard was incredible. Snow condition was prime, but we had to stay alert for dangerous conditions. Crevasses, cornices, and possible rockfall and avalanche danger were all in the radar. I've snowboarded over my first crevasse, albeit, accidentally. We made our way down safely, celebrating life, the mountains, and the elders who have lived before us.
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ike 1 year, 6 months ago
🐛 Worm Flows Route ☠️
EMBRACE THE SUCK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyJ_hhninDw DO THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38TqTNojLi8
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mbrill05 2 years, 5 months ago
3 volcanos in 3 days: #1 St Helens (ascent)
Very easy ascent. Camped at Car Park and departed at 530AM for Summit. Arrived at Summit at 11am. Back to car at Noon
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JKeen 2 years, 5 months ago
3 volcanos in 3 days: #1 St Helens (ascent)
Very easy ascent. Camped at Car Park and departed at 530AM for Summit. Arrived at Summit at 11am. Back to car at Noon
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tjprescott 1 year, 6 months ago
Mount St. Helens Worm Flows
Star Wars day with Sara Ann, Anna, Chenmin and Aquarian.
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shaymclaughlin4 6 months, 3 weeks ago
Mt St Helens via Worm Flows Route
Descent same as ascent
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Amber Chang 2 years, 6 months ago
MSH 2017
Tracking incomplete
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hy2008 3 years, 7 months ago
20160409StHelen(down)
Mt St Helen (down)
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hy2008 3 years, 7 months ago
20160409StHelen(down)
Mt St Helen (down)
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hy2008 3 years, 7 months ago
20160408_0409StHelen(up)
Mt St Helen (up)
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hy2008 3 years, 7 months ago
20160408_0409StHelen(up)
Mt St Helen (up)
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