Permit and Climbing FAQs


Climbing Permits

When do permits go on sale for the 2016 season?

Climbing permits for the 2016 season will be available for purchase beginning at 9:00am on Monday, February 1, 2016 (Pacific time).  Click Here.

If you are unable to access the permit search page using the link above, try opening the link in a different web browser.  We are in the process of resolving issues on our permit website.  We thank you for your patience and apologize for the inconvenience. 

Can I buy permits for everyone in my climbing group?

You can purchase up to 12 permits per transaction and every climber is required to visibly display a permit while climbing above 4,800’. You do not need the names of the other climbers at the time of purchase.

Once I purchase my permit, what do I do next?

You must now print your permits, fill in climbers name on each permit and bring them with you to the trail head the day of your climb. You do not need to stop at the Lone Fir Resort to register- now you can go straight to the trail head and register with your printed permit from home. There are plastic permit covers provided at the trailhead to protect your permit from the weather. Place your permit on your pack and display it so it is visible at all times while climbing. US Forest Service Climbing Rangers actively checkl permits on the climbing routes so be sure they are visible. When you return to the trail head, please sign out at the register and place your clean and dry plastic permit cover in the recycle container for the next climber to re-use. Keep your paper climbing permit for a souvenir!

Is a parking permit included with my climbing permit?

No. Funds from pass sales are used to maintain the toilets, parking and campsites at Climbers Bivouac. Climbers will need to display a National Forest Recreation Day Pass ($5/day), Annual Northwest Forest Pass, or an Interagency Annual Pass on each car parked at Climbers Bivouac. Day passes are available for purchase at a self-service pay station at Climbers Bivouac, at Monument facilities, or online here

If I can’t use my climbing permits, can I get a refund? Can I give it or sell it to someone else?

Climbing permits are non-refundable and non-transferable to another date (you cannot reschedule the date of your permit to a different day). It is acceptable and legal to sell (at or below face value) or give your permit(s) to another person. is an on-line forum that allows you to resell your permit.

Once you have sold your permit(s), you will need to transfer ownership of a permit. The owner must give/email the confirmation receipt as well as the permits to the recipient along with a written statement or email that the recipient is allowed to use the purchaser’s permit(s). The buyer will need to print this email and have it on their person during the climb.

The permits are all sold out for the day I want to climb.  What are my options?

If your preferred climb date is sold out OR if you have purchased a climbing permit and no longer are able to climb on that date, please visit to search for permits for sale or to offer your climbing permit(s) for sale. To transfer ownership of a permit, the owner must give/email the confirmation receipt as well as the permits to the recipient along with a written statement or email that the recipient is allowed to use the purchaser’s permit(s).

Who do I call if I am having problems with my transaction?

For transaction-related questions i.e. credit card issues, didn’t receive purchase confirmation email, etc, call Kinsail/Accela @ (703) 994-4194. For permit, climbing and other related questions, call the Mount St. Helens Institute @ (360) 449-7883

Who needs a climbing permit and when?

  • You must now print your permits, fill in climbers name on each permit, and bring them with you to the trail head the day of your climb. 

  • If you are climbing between November 1st - March 31st, you must self register at either Climbers Bivouac or Marble Mountain Sno-Park’s climber registers. There is no fee for permits during this period.

  • If you are climbing between April 1st - October 31st, you must purchase your permit by clicking here. Permits are $22.00. Permits are limited to 500/day from April 1st - May 14th, and 100/day from May 15th - October 31st. You are also required to self-register at either Climbers Bivouac or Marble Mountain Sno-Park’s climber registers.

  • A Washington State Sno-Park pass is required for climbs beginning at Marble Mountain Sno-Park from December 1st through April 30th and a Northwest Forest Day Pass is required for climbs beginning at Climbers Bivouac year-round.

What does the the $22 from my climbing permit help support?

Mount St. Helens climbing permits are administered by the Mount St. Helens Institute in partnership with Accela, an online vendor. Accela provides a secure website that accepts all major credit and debit cards. The U.S. Forest Service receives $14 of the total permit fee of $22, with the remaining $8 a service charge split betwen Accela and the Mount St. Helens Institute. Accela receives $3 of the $8 service charge to provide the secure vendor website. The Mount St. Helens Institute receives $5 from every permit sold and invests that revenue in a variety of services and programs in and around the National Volcanic Monument including: 

  • Customer service and informational resources for climbing permit holders and other outdoor recreators 
  • Mountain Steward volunteers provide visitors with safety advice, guidance regarding hiking routes and current conditions, information about Forest Service regulations and procedures, and provide educational information
  • Conservation Corp volunteers help repair and maintain trails and facilities and remove noxious weeds
  • Volcano Volunteers lead hikes, guide school groups, and share information with the public at the Monument’s visitor centers and other sites. 
  • Youth Education programs engage thousands of students annually in hands-on science and outdoor experiences in the context of the Pacific Northwest’s youngest and most active volcano.

Trailhead / Climbing Routes

Where is each trailhead?

Climbers may ascent to the rim from a variety of trailheads, but for nearly all climbers there are two primary access points and ascent routes. Each offers parking, toilets and limited primitive campsites but no other services:

Climbers Bivouac “Monitor Ridge/Summer climbing route) access: Generally available late June through October depending on snow conditions. Accessed off Forest Road 81. Trail is called “Ptarmigan Trail #216A” and merges into “Monitor Ridge Trail #216H.” Climb is 10 miles round-trip and has 4500’ elevation gain. You need a parking pass or a Northwest Forest Pass. There is a vault toilet at approx 2.25 miles at the tree line and just be prepared, there is no potable water at the trailhead.

Marble Mountain Snow-Park (Worm Flows/Winter climbing route) access: Generally November through late June when snow forces the closure of the road to Climbers Bivouac. Marble Mountain Sno-Park, off the 83 Road, is available year-round (unless snowfall is unusually high). The access trail is #244.  The climb is 12 miles round-trip and has 5500’ of elevation gain.  You need a Washington State Sno-Park permit

Where can I stay the night before the climb?

Limited primitive camping sites are available at both Climbers Bivouac and Marble Mountain Sno-Park. You must display a National Forest Recreation Day Pass ($5/day), Annual Northwest Forest Pass, or an Inter-agency Annual Pass on each car parked at Climbers Bivouac. Toilets are available at each site; there is no water or other amenities available. Campers are expected to obey all USFS policies and restrictions regarding open fires and stoves. If you wish to not camp, we recommend staying near or around Cougar, WA or Woodland, WA.

When do I need a Sno-Park pass to park at Marble Mountain Sno-Park?

You need a Sno-Park pass to park at Marble Mountain between November 1st and April 30th.

Preparing for your climb

How long does it take to climb the mountain?

It depends on a multitude of factors. The average time of a summer climb is about 4:30 hours up and 3:30 hours down for a round trip total climbing time of 8:00 hours.

If there are avalanche warnings, is the mountain closed to climbers?

No. The mountain is ONLY closed to climbers (and everyone else) if the mountain is experiencing volcanic activity. It is never closed due to avalanche danger/warnings.  All climbers who choose to ascend when snow is on the ground are advised to have proper avalanche training and tools before they venture on slopes of Mount St. Helens.  Avalanches can and do occur in the winter, spring, and early summer months.

Is the climb suitable for young children?

It depends. The climb is much more difficult in winter conditions and turns into an extreme hike in the late summer. The climb is not suitable for anyone who has bad balance or is incapable of taking care of themselves. Age is less of a factor. It depends on the child’s maturity, coordination, and stamina.  For all first-time or new climbers, we recommend prior successful experience on trails that approximate the 9-11 miles round trip and 4400’ - 5500’ elevation gains of the summer and winter routes, respectively.

Can I bring my dog on the climb?

Yes. However, you must keep your dog on a six foot long leash. Also, beware that volcanic rock and ash as well as snow is extremely abrasive on a dog’s paws. We do not recommend bring your dog along for this reason. Please respect your animal.  If you do bring your dog in snow conditions, consider having them trained to accept booties; ice is very abrasive to the pads of dogs’ feet.

When do I need an ice axe and crampons?

Climbers should carry an ice axe and crampons when the possibility of winter conditions or steep snow travel exists. Note: ice axes and crampons are sharp pieces of equipment and can lead to injury if used improperly. If you don’t know how to use these properly, consider climbing later in the season (once the snow has melted) or taking a training class from a mountain guiding organization.

Where can I rent crampons and an ice axe?

You can rent crampons and ice axes at many climbing stores. In the Portland area, we recommend The Mountain Shop, Oregon Mountain Community, and REI.  Again, we recommend that you already know how to use these tools proficiently before you ascend the Mountain.

Other preparation questions? See our page on how to prepare for your climb.