Program Policies

Program policies are subject to change without notice.  


A. VULNERABLE POPULATIONS: Participants considered at higher risk to COVID-19 should make their own decisions regarding whether or not to participate. In Washington State, high risk populations are encouraged to stay home. See CDC guidelines on vulnerable populations.

B. TRAVEL: We expect you to follow Federal, State, Public Lands and Health Authority regulations and guidance on travel. Please reconsider travel if you are coming from an area with a large outbreak. Also consider staying local - Mount St. Helens will be here in the future. See our reassurance cancellation policy if you are concerned.  

C. GROUP SIZE: Washington State guidance on guided outdoor recreation has distinct phases. We will work with you and your group as best as possible to accommodate you but we may need flexibility in dates depending on the current phase. 

Phase 1:

  • Max groups size: 8 participants + 1 guide
  • Participants must be within a single household

Phase 2:

  • Max group size: 10 participants + 2 guides
  • Participants may be from up to 6 different households

Those from different households must remain 6’ apart at all times

D. CLOSURES: All MSHI programs will be up-to-date on the local, state, and federal regulations and communicate this to the group in advance of the trip.

E. COME PREPARED: Please bring your own supplies including hand sanitizer, face covering, food, water, etc. 

  • Please bring your own hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, toilet paper, and a small bag for trash.
  • Review Summit Climb packing list or Day Hike packing list.
  • Clients must bring their own writing implement to fill out required waiver and medical form (forms provided at the trailhead). 

F. FACE COVERINGS: A face covering (such as a cloth mask) must be worn any time the group is not hiking, when we pass others on the trail in either direction, or when we cannot maintain social distancing. Read more about cloth face coverings here.

G. SOCIAL DISTANCING: Minimum of 6’ is required between household members, including from other hikers on the trail.

H. KNOW THE SYMPTOMS: Participants are required to cancel if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, or new loss of taste or smell. We will do our best to reschedule with no penalty once you are feeling better. Review the symptoms. 

I. MEDICAL INFORMATION & HEALTH SCREENING: The more we know about your health/medical conditions, the better we can manage the risks for everyone. Please complete the Medical Information Form 14 days before your trip. The day of your trip we will conduct a COVID-19 symptom screening survey. 

J. FIRST AID: MSHI guides will provide first aid up to their level of training (minimum Wilderness First Responder), and will be following recommendations of the certifying organization (eg: NOLS) regarding COVID-19. 

K. FLEXIBILITY: If there are large crowds at trailheads or on the trail, our guide will work with your group to alter plans/schedule to avoid large gatherings of people. 

L. POST-TRIP: If you become ill with symptoms of COVID-19 and/or test positive for COVID-19 within 2 weeks of participating, we encourage you to let us know for purposes of contact tracing. While optional, this is encouraged to help us slow the spread. We will try to do the same. 


A. Programs proceed in rain and unpleasant weather unless it compromises the safety of the group.  Appropriate gear, clothing and footwear are very important for ensuring comfort.

B. All program participants are responsible for their own accident and health insurance.

C. All participants must complete and return a Participant Agreement & Assumption of Risk and Participant Information form before the beginning of the program.

D. Participants must abide by the rules and instructions given either verbally or in writing by the Mount St. Helens Institute or its designated instructor(s). Violation of any participation policies are grounds for dismissal.

  1. Unlawful conduct is prohibited. Participants must abide the rules and regulations of the US Forest Service.
  2. Alcohol is not allowed during programs unless otherwise approved by MSHI.
  3. Any and all illegal or recreational drugs including, but not limited to, cannabis are not allowed on federal land or during an MSHI program at any time, for any reason.
  4. Smoking and vaping are not permitted during programs.
  5. Weapons including, but not limited to, handguns, rifles, shotguns or other firearms; knives, butterfly knives, switchblade knives, daggers; martial arts weapons or implements; explosives; and stun guns or Taser devices, are prohibited. Possession or use of any weapon is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program.
  6. Inappropriate conversation or personal conduct; bullying, assault or inappropriate physical conduct; offensive behavior or remarks toward other participants or Mount St. Helens Institute staff and volunteers, including use of racial, religious or sexual slurs and/or intimidation are strictly prohibited.
  7. Theft or vandalism is prohibited.
  8. The majority of our programs operate within a No Drone Zone.

E. Pets are prohibited on Mount St. Helens Institute programs. Service animals are permitted, in designated areas and/or as otherwise permitted by controlling law.

F. Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from the program site, unless otherwise determined by MSHI.

G. The Mount St. Helens Institute is not liable for any expenses the participant may incur in the preparation and execution of the program including, but not limited to transportation costs and lodging.

H. The Mount St. Helens Institute or U.S. Forest Service and their staff and volunteers are not responsible for the storage, care, custody, or control of equipment, materials or furnishings owned by participants.



4/15/2020 UPDATE:  REASSURANCE CANCELLATION POLICY: Due to the uncertainty of the future in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and program participants in mind, we are offering a modified Cancellation Policy through September 30th, 2020 (or beyond if necessary). We encourage you to register for programs with the reassurance that you will receive full credit for an alternate date or a full refund minus the transaction fee, if you cancel 2 weeks or more before the program date. If MSHI cancels, you will receive a full refund. 

Below is our standard cancellation policy.

A. Program activities and schedules are subject to cancellation or change at the discretion of Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI).

B. Due to changing weather and terrain conditions and the pace/skill of a group’s program participants, MSHI cannot and does not guarantee programs will be completed as advertised.

C. In the event that the Mount St. Helens Institute must cancel a scheduled program, registrants will receive a full refund.

D. In the event that the registrant cancels their registration, the registrant will be held to MSHI's program specific cancellation policy below:

  1. Guided Exploration Programs, Volcano Naturalist & Summer Camps: Registrants will receive a full refund minus registration processing fees when MSHI is notified of cancellation 30 or more days prior to the start of the program.  Should you prefer, registrants may receive a program credit for the full tuition plus registration processing fees. Refunds are not issued for cancellations received fewer than 30 days prior to the start of the program. If you purchased Booking Protect at the time of registration, please review Booking Protect Coverage Details.
  2. Summer Camps: Registrants will receive a full refund minus registration processing fees when MSHI is notified of cancellation 30 or more days prior to the start of the program.  Should you prefer, registrants may receive a program credit for the full tuition plus registration processing fees. Refunds are not issued for cancellations received fewer than 30 days prior to the start of the program.
  3. Volcano Outdoor School & Facility Rentals: The school or group is registered upon receipt of the signed Program Agreement. A non-refundable deposit of 50% of the program quote is due 60 days before the program start date. Should MSHI not receive a booking deposit, MSHI may cancel the Program with written notice.

E. Refunds are not issued to participants dismissed from an MSHI program.  MSHI will not assume responsibility, logistically or financially, for evacuating dismissed participants.

H. None of the following will result in a refund of any participation fees: homesickness, illness, change of family/school plans, dismissal from the program and/or personal schedule conflicts/changes.