The easiest approach to Mt. Whittier 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 ~18mi 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.
Route DescriptionMt. Whittier:
From trailhead (3670') hike west along the Boundary Trail (#1) which gradually winds its way upwards for 2.2mi past a junction to reach a second junction at Norway Pass. Remain on the Boundary Trail, climbing a long switchback to a third junction at Bear Pass (4960') and continue onward for a further 1.9mi past Bear Camp to arrive at a junction with the old Whittier Trail (signed). From the junction (5600'), bear right and continue another mile or so up and down along the ridgetop to reach the narrow summit of Mt. Whittier (5883'). The trail is unmaintained, but relatively easy to follow -- in a couple places it appears the trail was blasted out of the cliffs. Route was fine for hiking when dry, but one might like a handline if wet, icy, snowy, etc.
Continuing on past Mt. Whittier, the trail continues on down the ridgetop gradually becoming more and more faint and eventually disappearing at the far end. The north end of the trail previously was washed out but reportedly (spring 2011) it has been rerouted - presumably down to Pleasant Pass. The Forest Service notes: "This trail is suitable for experienced hikers comfortable scrambling in steep mountainous terrain." The ridge is a solid class 3 scramble.
Additional notes as of Fall 2006:
The trail becomes very faint and disappears in places north of Mt. Whittier. When in doubt always head back up to the top of the ridge to pick up the trail again. As of fall 2006 someone has marked a descent route with orange tape off down the NE side of the ridge to Pleasant Pass.
If you're in the area, you may want to go bag Mt. Margaret nearby too. From the junction where you turned off for Mt. Whittier (5600'), continue on another ~0.5mi on the Boundary Trail to another junction and bear right to the summit (5858') and great views of Mt. St. Helens.
Norway Pass to Mt. Whittier & Mt. Margaret: ~12.8mi RT, ~3000' gain
At several points along the Whittier Ridge, the trail traverses below a cliffband. Helmet may not be a bad idea for safety. It's fine when it's dry, but a handline might be nice to have if wet or icy.
Bring a filter to restock on water at the lakes.