Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 46.32500°N / 122.132°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
Additional Information Elevation: 5883 ft / 1793 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Mt. Whittier Mount Whittier is the highest point in the Mount Margaret Backcountry - part of the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument - and is part of a ridge system located just north of Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake. This area took the brunt of the 1980 eruption - the lateral blast leveled thousands of acres of forest north of the volcano and scoured the ridgetop down to the bedrock in places. The views of the St. Helens crater from atop the ridge are some of the best anywhere in the Monument. Mount Whittier likely does not receive too many visitors. The easiest trail approaches eastwards from Norway Pass - although most hikers likely visit the nearby and slightly lower Mount Margaret (5858') to the south. Visitors may also be deterred by the Forest Service warning: "The Whittier Trail #214, in particular, is very narrow and crosses steep cliffs; it is not suitable for hikers that are uncomfortable with heights." The old trail is largely unmaintained but has several sections of easy class 3 scrambling along a narrow ledge. It's fine if it's dry, but if not, you may want a handline for safety. Mt. Whittier could easily be combined with nearby Mount Margaret (5858') as a day outing. As of spring 2011 the trail at the north end of the Whittier Ridge has been re-routed allowing loop hikes to be made into the lake basin north of the ridge. If the Blast Zone below the St. Helens crater is open to hikers, one great backpack is to hike the Mt. Margaret traverse out along the Boundary Trail (#1) and return on a loop via the Truman Trail (#207). This may require a car shuttle or hiking for a distance along the Windy Ridge Rd. Trails of the Mt. Margaret Backcountry Note that some USGS maps do not show the trails in the Mt. Margaret Backcountry. Other than the old Whittier Trail (and possibly the Independence Pass trail which was washed out in sections in 2002) they appear to otherwise be largely well-maintained, well signed, and easy to follow trails --- Note - While currently dormant, Mt. St. Helens is an active volcano. It's probably best to check on the Monument Conditions for any special closures before visiting this area. ---

Getting There

The easiest approach is via the Norway Pass trail - located on the northeastern side of Mt. St. Helens. From I-5, take exit 68 and follow Rt 12 ~47mi to Randle. Turn off right onto Rd 25 (signed for Windy Ridge) and follow south ~13mi before turning right again onto Rd 99 (also signed). Follow the road into the outer blast zone of the Monument for 9.2mi, turning right onto Rd 26 and continue ~1mi to the Norway Pass trailhead on the left. A somewhat longer approach to Mt. Whittier would be from the Johnson Ridge Visitor Center on the northwestern side of the Monument. From I-5, take exit 49 (Castle Rock) and follow Hwy 504 east to its very end at the parking area for the Johnson Ridge Visitor Center. The trailhead is at the far eastern end of the parking lot.

Red Tape

When parking at Johnston Ridge Observatory (west side) to access the Mount Margaret Backcountry, each visitor needs to go into Johnston Ridge Observatory and pay a recreation fee of $8 per adult (children 15 and younger are free). They will receive a wristband at the time of payment. If a visitor has an America the Beautiful pass, that will cover the cardholder plus three other adults. They will need to show the pass and receive the wristbands. If the center is closed, we ask that you purchase the wristbands on the way out.

For starting from Norway Pass, on the east side, they will need a Northwest Forest Pass displayed in each vehicle.

When To Climb

Mount Whittier is probably best climbed in late-spring/summer/fall. Possibly it can be climbed all year 'round, although getting into the Backcountry may be more difficult if roads are not plowed. There may be some avalanche hazard in some areas of the Backcountry. Mt. Margaret would probably be fairly easy to reach in winter -- although the narrow ridge out to Mt. Whittier might require some fixed lines under snow conditions. Snow typically lingers on the ridgetop until late-June or early July. An ice axe and crampons may be a good idea earlier in the season. The fall colours in the area make this a great late-season hike. Elk are numerous in the area and we spotted two mountain goats on the Whittier Ridge.


Camping in the Mt. Margaret Backcountry requires a permit. Group size is limited to four and groups are required stay at established camps. Water may be an issue at the ridgetop camps later in the season. Information on Backcountry Permits and Camps Online Permit Form The nearest car-camping on the northeastern side of the Monument is likely the Iron Creek Campground located on Rt 25 about 8mi south of Randle.

Mountain Conditions

NWS Point Forecast for the Mt. Margaret Area Mt. St. Helens WebCam Can be used to check on volcano activity and get an idea an idea of weather conditions in the area. Mt. St. Helens Current Conditions

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Jul 30, 2019 10:30 am - Hasn't voted

Distances and signage

Distance on Road 25 from Randle to Road 99 is 19.3 miles, not 13. Distance on Road 99 from Road 25 to 26 is 8.6 miles. There is a fork in the trail just yards into the route from the parking lot where the right fork is marked with a Boundary Trail No. 1 sign and the left fork is unmarked. Ignore the marked route and take the left fork. The first junction in the trail is marked with a confusing sign that says Road 26 to the left and Trail 227 to the right and that Trail 227 is closed due to a washout. Take the right fork anyway and proceed to Independence Pass. At that junction, Trail 227 goes to the left and is signed as closed. The right fork is signed and is the way you want to go. Take that trail and proceed to the next junction for Bear Pass. It's signed and you want to take the left fork away from Bear Pass. Take that to another junction with a post and no sign and logs blocking the way to the right. This is a camp or something and there is a small wooden structure. Proceed the way that is not blocked off, a sharp left. This takes you up over the ridge and on to the junction for Whittier Trail. Beware at that junction the sign is on the ground in pieces and doesn't say anything about Whittier Trail. You need to look to the right, the way the trail forks off and there is a sign for Whittier Trail but it's on the ground off the post. Hopefully, this helps people not waste a lot of time like I did.

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