Embark on a journey into a volcanic wilderness by following the Mt Adams South Climb trail to the lunar landscape of Lunch Counter. If you would like to get a taste of the mountain climbing culture without as much danger of altitude sickness, try your heels out on the first 2/3 of the South Climb trail.

View of the approach to Mt Adams Summit ©Erika Klimecky


Start off from Cold Springs Trailhead (5600 ft) and follow the wide trail as it meanders through a dry pine forest. The old road-turned-trail only gains a small amount of elevation as it winds through flowering meadows, offering glimpses of Pikers Peak and Mt St Helens through the trees. Continue straight on the trail as it intersects with the Round the Mountain Trail, following the arrow towards the South Climb. Follow the trail as it makes its way up the base of the mountain, leaving the pine trees, verdant meadows and vivid wildflowers behind as it cuts into the wake of an old lava flow. After two miles the road disappears into a thin, dusty trail.

As the trail winds closer to the dormant volcano it ascends upward into switchbacks across a craggy slope of volcanic rocks, adorned by a few pines that offer a few snatches of shade. As you make your way up along the slope be wary of the loose volcanic rocks and soil, which can easily shift and give way. Follow the trail as it levels out onto a snowy plateau. Adventurous hikers with crampons, ice axes and self-arrest skills can don their gear and climb up the snowy slopes of the Crescent Glacier to reach the snowfield below Lunch Counter. Conservative hikers can follow the trail markers up a rocky cliff to follow a ridge of volcanic rocks. The trail winds through small pines, bent from heavy snowfall, and a menagerie of man-made campsites. Eventually the trail levels out at the top of the rock ridge, descending slightly onto the snowfield below Lunch Counter.

Hikers can don their crampons or brave the slickness of the summer snow as they climb upward along the wide snowfield, rewarded by a spectacular view of Mount Adams’ elegant profile. Continue walking along the snowfield, slowly angling your path rightward towards the rocky plateau known as Lunch Counter. Follow the snowfield to the feet of the volcanic cone and marvel at the spectacular lava formations and meticulously-built campsite structures. Sit at the base of Pikers Peak (the mountain’s false summit) to watch mountain climbers make the ascent or glissade down on one of the well-traveled chutes.

Season: Summer
Length: 3.7 miles (each way)
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
Variety: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 3,9000 ft
Highest Point: 9,500 ft
Maps: Green Trails Map No 67S: MT Adams
Open to: hikers, dogs
Passes and permits required: Cascade Volcano Pass (mandatory for all hikers ascending higher than 7,000 ft), NW Forest Pass

Climbers ascending Mt Adams ©Erika Klimecky


Cross the Hood Rive Bridge and follow Highway 141 North from White Salon for 22 miles. Stop at the Trout Lake Ranger station to purchase a Cascade Volcano Pass. Drive North from the town of Trout Lake on Road #23/Mt. Adams Area Recreational Road for 1.4 miles until the road hits a Y. Take the right fort to merge onto Road #80 and drive for .6 miles. Turn left to follow road #80 and right onto Road #8040 (a gravel road). Follow the road to Morrison Creek Campground, and (roughly 10 miles) and turn right onto Road #500 to Cold Springs Trailhead.

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