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Adventure Travel

Vancouver, WA: Mount Adams via South Spur

Climb the Northwest's tallest nontechnical volcano.

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This 12,276-foot, ice-draped monolith may look like expert-only terrain, but the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range is a gentle giant. Plus, notes local resident Wes Cooper, “The summit overlooks a huge variety of terrain: the plains of eastern Washington, Mount Hood towering over the Columbia River basin, Mount St. Helens, Puget Sound, the Olympics, and Mount Rainier.”
From South Climb trailhead, you’ll set off along McDonald Ridge on Trail 183, with the mountain vistas expanding with every step. The 12 miles (round-trip) and elevation gain/loss of nearly 7,000 feet make scaling Adams a burly day (or turn it into an overnight by camping at the Lunch Counter, at 9,500 feet). Carry an ice axe and crampons for better purchase on firm morning snow. Pick up a Cascades Volcano Pass ($15 Friday through Sunday, $10 weekdays) at the Mount Adams or Cowlitz Valley Ranger Stations.
MAP: Green Trails Mount Adams ($6, greentrailsmaps .com)
CONTACT: (509) 395-3400,
-Mapped by David Tate


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 20.5



Location: 46.135679, -121.497953

The route starts at the South Summit Climb trailhead.


Location: 46.14602, -121.491065

Continue straight at the 4-way junction with Round the Mountain Trail.


Location: 46.156723, -121.491258

Cross Morrison Creek, which flows only when the temps are warm.


Location: 46.167609, -121.491526

Camp 1: There are several small rock walls to provide wind break for tents. From here on to the Lunch Counter, you will encounter several to choose from.


Location: 46.177223, -121.488694

Pass the last flat area before the Lunch Counter. Campsites are available here.


Location: 46.179741, -121.482911

Lunch Counter: This popular (and flat) overnight destination offers several windbreaks for tents.


Location: 46.19196, -121.488694

Crest the false summit and continue climbing north for the home stretch.


Location: 46.201488, -121.492782

Pass a cabin that was used by miner’s looking to mine sulphur from the mountain’s peak.


Location: 46.202424, -121.490883

Mount Adams (12,276): Look for the USGS marker that marks the second highest peak in the Washington Cascades. On cloud-free days, look for Mounts Rainier, St. Helens, Hood, and Jefferson.

Sunrise on Mount Hood

Location: 46.16937, -121.489563

Looking southwest, can see the sunrise on Mount Hood, with Mount Jefferson in the backdrop.

South Spur Trailhead

Location: 46.135672, -121.497781

Meadows with Indian Paintbrush

Location: 46.146302, -121.490207

View toward Mount Adams. The trail is still below treeline and close to Round the Mountain Trail.


Location: 46.155697, -121.49128

The large and hard-to-miss cairns mark the route.

Camp 1

Location: 46.16755, -121.491333


Location: 46.167698, -121.491344

Sunset with Mount St. Helens in the foreground.

Sunrise on Mount Adams

Location: 46.17573, -121.489155

Welcoming rays of first light on Mount Adams.

Lunch Counter Shelters

Location: 46.18044, -121.482611

Ridge of Wonders

Location: 46.184971, -121.481795

Looking down toward the Ridge of Wonders.

Klickitat Glacier

Location: 46.189665, -121.483812

More dramatic ice on the Klickitat Glacier.

Views from False Summit

Location: 46.19199, -121.48849

Looking towards the top of Mount Adams.

Piker’s Peak

Location: 46.193193, -121.488436

Piker’s Peak and the glacier ice at its base.

Klickitat Glacier

Location: 46.196914, -121.486773

The Castle

Location: 46.198755, -121.489102

You can see the top of the Castle here.

Views of Piker’s Peak and Saddle

Location: 46.200122, -121.490808

The bare knoll is Piker’s Peak; it’s hard to make out the trail that leads across it.

Miner’s Cabin

Location: 46.201481, -121.492653

Cabin that was used by miner’s looking to mine Sulpher from the mountain’s peak.

The Pinnacle

Location: 46.201666, -121.492567

Looking across the headwall of the Adams Glacier, the Pinnacle looms large.

Mount Rainier

Location: 46.202193, -121.491559

On sunny days, Mount Rainier is visible to the north.


Location: 46.185387, -121.486666

Looking down onto Lunch Counter.

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