Permit and Climbing FAQs

Climbing Permits

This button, which will redirect to the online vendor for 2018 climbing permits, will become active on February 26, 2018 at 9:00 AM PST.

2018 Climbing Permits Went On Sale in February 2018

Demand for permits is greater than the supply, so there is no guarantee of securing your preferred date(s) or number of climbing permits. Please plan accordingly.

The Mount St. Helens Institute recognizes how frustrating and time-consuming this process has been for those wishing to purchase permits. Resolving these issues and improving the process for everyone is our highest priority.


I was sent to a sample site, and was unable to log in or purchase permits on February 26. What happened?

The online vendor RecAccess, responsible for the permit purchasing process, acknowledged there was a problem with a hyperlink that inadvertently bounced some would-be buyers from the website. RecAccess made the following statement: "We need to apologize for the incorrect hyperlink error that occurred [on Feb 26, 2018]. By accident, we inserted a hyperlink that pointed back to our testing environment calendar as opposed to the production calendar. Though the team discovered the issue within the first 10 minutes of launch, it affected hundreds of users that were sent to the testing environment. The team built the Mount St. Helens Institute a stable system that handled the anticipated load but a manual, incorrect hyperlink error affected some potential climbers and we are deeply sorry for the inconveniences that this caused your organization and recreationists who wish to enjoy the Mountain. The system was and still is stable with no complaints from users who were directed to the correct calendar. Again, our sincerest apologies as the Mount St. Helens Institute did everything possible to ensure a fair, smooth permit issuance to all climbers and this was in no way a result of Mount St. Helens Institute management.”

What can I expect the process of searching for and purchasing a permit to be like through RecAccess?

The Mount St. Helens Institute will be utilizing the services of a new transaction processor, RecAccess, for permits purchased on or after February 26, 2018. RecAccess is a user-friendly, online permit service that is currently being used by National Wildlife Refuges across the United States. The RecAccess Team wants climbers to spend nominal time online obtaining permits and more time on the volcano.

To purchase Mount St. Helens Climbing Permits you must register and log-in to RecAcess.

To select your climb date, click on the calendar date in which you would like to climb. There are toggle buttons on the upper left side of the calendar for you to scroll from month to month.

You will then be prompted to enter the total quantity of permits you would like for that date.

Add the permits to your cart, confirm your cart items, and check out by entering your payment information before submitting/completing your order.

A confirmation screen will appear from which you can access and print your climbing permits. Concurrently, an automatically generated order confirmation email will be sent to the email address you provided with instructions on how to access and print your climbing permits from your RecAccess account.

For more information on most common RecAccess questions please visit: https://help.recaccess.com/

At what point in the transaction process is my permit secured?

Your permits are secured and removed from the permit inventory once you have checked out and completed your transaction.

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?

Print the permits (link in confirmation email) or take a screenshot of them in advance of the climb, and bring them to the trailhead the day of the climb. Climbers are required to sign in and out at the climbers register at the Climber’s Bivouac (summer route) or Marble Mountain Sno-Park (winter route) trail heads. Plastic permit holders are available for climbers to display printed permits while climbing Mount St. Helens. There are plastic permit covers provided at the trail head to protect your printed permit from the weather (or use a clear plastic sandwich bag). Place your permit on your pack and display it so it is visible at all times while climbing. US Forest Service Climbing Rangers actively check 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 as a souvenir! As an alternative, we suggest taking a screenshot of your permits, as there is no cell service along the route, you will not be able to pull it from your email. Screenshot permits may be shown to rangers upon request as proof of permit in lieu of a printed version.

I am buying multiple permits. Do I need to have the names for everyone I am buying a permit for?

New to 2018: In order to increase well-being and safety on the volcano, climbers will be prompted through their confirmation email to register the names of all climbers in their party before their climb. This information will help climbing rangers to better respond to emergencies and will help discourage unauthorized climbing permit resales. This may be done at any time between the date of sale and the date of the climb.

Is a parking permit included with my climbing permit?

No. Recreation passes (aka parking permits) are not  provided with climbing permits. You will need to purchase a recreation pass for each vehicle parked at the trail-head.

Marble Mountain Sno-Park Trail-Head

A Washington State Sno-Park Permit ($20/day) is required for each vehicle parked at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park from November 1 to March 31. At this time, no recreation pass is required after March 31.

Climber's Bivouac Trail-Head

Recreation passes accepted at the Climber's Bivouac are: a National Forest Recreation Day Pass ($5/day), an Annual Northwest Forest Pass (National Forests in WA and OR only) ($30/year), or other inter-agency passes, such as America the Beautiful ($80/year). Day Passes are available for purchase on-line or at the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar, WA or at the Trail of Two Forests Interpretive Site (fee box) on your way up to the trail-head. 

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. Purmit.com is an on-line forum that allows you to resell your permit. We do not manage purmit.com and we are not responsible for permit exchange or transfer transactions after the original date of sale.

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 or take a screenshot of this permit 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 you have purchased a climbing permit and no longer are able to climb on that date, you may visit purmit.com to search for permits for sale or to offer your climbing permit(s) for sale. We do not manage purmit.com and we are not responsible for permit exchange or transfer transactions after the original date of 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).

We had initially planned to hold back 10% of permits per day and make them available the month before a climb to give folks the chance to get permits who weren’t able to purchase permits on February 1st. Due to the challenges experienced on the initial on-sale date, we have decided to do away with the 10% hold back. All remaining permits will be available on Feb. 26th.

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

For all permit, permit reprint, email confirmation, climbing, or other related questions, contact the Mount St. Helens Institute at (360) 449-7883 or email climb@mshinstitute.org

I can't find my climbing permit, but I was charged for it. Who do I contact for help?

If you bought permits on or near February 1, your permit was purchased through Discover Your Northwest. If you bought permits on or after February 26, your permit was purchased through RecAccess. If you still cannot find your permits after searching through your email, please contact contact the Mount St. Helens Institute at (360) 449-7883 or email climb@mshinstitute.org

Who needs a climbing permit and when?

Permits are for any person, of any age, intending to climb the volcano above 4,800' with their boots on the ground. Small children to be carried by their parents or guardians for the entirety of the climb do not need climbing permits.

You must print or take a screenshot of your permits, and bring them with you to the trail head the day of your climb, and sign in at the climber's register at the trail head. 

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 March 31st and a Northwest Forest Day Pass is required for climbs beginning at Climbers Bivouac year-round.

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

Mount St. Helens climbing permits are administered by the Mount St. Helens Institute in partnership with RecAccess. The U.S. Forest Service receives $14 of the total permit fee of $22, with the remaining $8 a service charge split between RecAccess and the Mount St. Helens Institute. The portion received by the Mount St. Helens Institute is invested 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 ascend 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 from November 1st to March 31st.

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 March 31.

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 (with no snow, leaving from Climber's Bivouac) is about 4:30 hours up and 3:30 hours down for a round trip total climbing time of 8 hours. The average time of a winter climb (with snow, leaving from Marble Mountain) is about 6 hours up and 4 hours down for a round trip total climbing time of 10 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), taking a training class from a mountain guiding organization, or joining us on a guided climb!

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, Next Adventure, 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.