Added by Devin K
This hike has no crowds, great camp sites, and spectacular views of Rainier and Mt St Helens. This volcano climb has nearly 8,000ft of elevation gain.
Mt Adams is the second tallest volcano in the Cascades and is one of the easiest to climb. There are two main nontechnical routes up Mt Adams, the well-known and crowded route on the south face, and the lesser traveled north cleaver route. The north cleaver offers solitude, views of Rainier, high alpine lakeside camping, and a true wilderness experience. A Mt Adams wilderness permit or Cascade Volcano Pass is required. The trail is around 17 miles roundtrip and almost 8,000' of elevation gain. This is best done in two days.
Getting to the trailhead will require a stop by the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District in Randle, WA to pick up a permit. This is also a good time to get a Mt Adams topo map, which will have all of the main trails around Mt Adams and is waterproof. From Randle head south on WA-131 and turn left on NF-23 towards Killen Creek Trailhead. The trailhead has plenty of parking, but no services or bathroom, so make sure to have your water bottles filled beforehand (my recommendation would be the ranger station). Don't be fooled, this climb is hot and has no cover or water, so be prepared.
The beginning of the hike goes through beautiful forest and meadows with exciting views of Mt Adams when the weather is nice. At 3 miles you will cross the Pacific Crest Trail. This is where you will begin to leave the forest and the elevation gain will increase until you reach the High Camp. The High Camp is a beautiful meadow area with plenty of camping spots, but was fairly crowded when we were there and by fairly crowded I mean there was two other groups already there. We chose to continue another mile southeast up Mt Adams on a faint trail around a crumbling point to a lake at 7505'. There are camping spots on the east side of the lake with rock walls built up around to block the wind. One of the best parts about this area is listening to the glaciers above crumble and rumble all night. Time to the lake from the parking lot is about 3-4 hours.
From the lake to the summit took us around 5hrs. When you leave the lake you gain the ridge just southeast of the lake almost immediately. Once on the ridge you follow the proper ridge for most of the way, but occasionally there will be areas you will want to drop down to the west side. We found out the hard way that dropping down on the east side of the ridge is a bad idea. The ridge can be confusing and sometimes trial-and-error. A lot of the rock is rotten volcanic rock and has the tendency to slide easily on the scree slopes. Most of this section is Class 2, but some of it can easily be turned into Class 3 if you choose the wrong way.
You will gain the ice cap at around 12,000' and the climb will flatten out significantly. This portion is easy and straightforward, but I have heard that there can be small crevasses open on the ice cap. When we climbed it there were no open crevasses and we didn't find any on the trek over to the true summit. The true summit is on the south side and is at 12,278'. It's easy to find, just look for all the people and a warming hut. Be careful not to venture to far off to the east or west because there are large open crevasses in both directions.
The route down is much easier and faster. It took us around 2 hours to get down, but we did make a few wrong turns on the ridge. We chose to wait to pack up camp until we got down. Once we were all packed up we had a victory beer, Big Surf from Canada (this is actually one of Canada's cheapest beers and I'm not sure why we had it with us) and then began our trip down to the car. It took us about 3 more hours to reach our car. Along the way we saw a group of mountain goats in the meadow around the High Camp and enjoyed watching them for a bit. By the time we got to the car we were both completely exhausted and parched, probably from the lack of water and the consumption of beer in place of.
The greatest highlight of this trip was being put to sleep by the rumblings of the mountain and waking up to the dramatic north face of Mt Adams. This is worth a trip all on it's own. Just remember to get out there and enjoy the mountains!
- Water filter
- Hiking boots
- Puffy jacket
- Rain jacket
- Long sleeves
- Short sleeves
- Running shoes
- Sleeping bag
- First-aid kit
- Sun glasses
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