Castle Rock, Wash.
Outdoor recreation areas around the Pacific Northwest have been extremely crowded during the pandemic. Last summer, the Forest Service and county sheriff’s offices began towing cars parked illegally near trailheads on Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and other day-use areas around the region.
In an effort to reduce crowds on Mount St Helens, from April 1 to May 14, the Forest Service will reduce the number of available permits from 500 to 300 per day, according to an agency news release. The Forest Service will also increase the number of permits issued between May 15 and Oct. 31, from 100 to 110 per day, though it will not be enough to offset the reduction. In total, nearly 7,000 fewer permits will be issued this year.
The reduction is due to the need to minimize resource damage, maintain a quality visitor experience, and increase safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by reducing crowding along the route during the primary climbing season. Although going from issuing 500 to 300 permits per day may seem like a lot, in the past they typically only sold the full 500 permits when the weather was sunny and nice.
Many of the 500-person quota went unsold due to poor weather. This 300-person quota helps reign in the crowds on the sunniest of days when crowding is a problem, especially last year. More importantly, this is an improvement over the permit availability last year, when the Forest Service cancelled all permits for the 500-person days due to pandemic restrictions.
Although strenuous, the ascent up Mount St. Helens is considered a non-technical climb, suitable for hikers in good physical condition who are comfortable scrambling on steep, rugged terrain.