Trails for everyone, forever

Home Go Hiking Hiking Guide Mount Adams South Climb

Mount Adams South Climb

South Cascades


South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area
View map below


12.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 6700 ft.
Highest Point: 12276 ft.


4.74 out of 5

(19 votes) Log in to rate

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

The South Climb (or Lunch Counter Approach) of Mount Adams is the one that requires the least amount of technical expertise. However, ice axes, trekking poles, and crampons or microspikes (depending on the season) are required to summit. Hikers who put this investment in will be rewarded with stunning views on a clear day, as well as the satisfaction of having made it up one of Washington's five volcanoes.

Many climbers attempt this mountain over two days, beginning their ascent from the trailhead and heading to the Lunch Counter for the first evening. With an early morning wakeup call, they reach the summit early in the day, when the snow is still sturdy from cold overnight temperatures, and head down after snapping some summit shots.

It is also possible to camp below Crescent Glacier in the Morrison Creek drainage, to avoid crowd that can form at the Lunch Counter.

Begin at the South Climb Trail (183), at the end of a rough forest road (8040-500). Note that the last three miles past Morrison Creek Campground is very rough and narrow, so drive carefully. If you are coming late at night, you may consider camping at Morrison Creek to avoid a late-night car-to-car encounter on the road.

From the trailhead, follow an old road bed through the 2012 Cascade Creek burn zone. In times of high wind, this can be a dangerous area, and there is very little shade until you arrive at a stand of trees near the intersection with the Round The Mountain trail. Luckily, this is only about a mile in, and on relatively flat trail, it doesn't take long to arrive there.

Because of the exposed nature of the hike, you'll want to bring plenty of water, and consider refilling when you cross Morrison Creek. The summer route up Adams, beyond Morrison Creek becomes rocky and rough. Be sure to have sturdy shoes, since the tread is loose, and can slide out underfoot in steep sections.

Traverse this section, then arrive atop a ridgeline northwest of Morrison Creek. The trail continues to climb relentlessly until you reach the snowfields below the Lunch Counter.

Continue up to the Lunch Counter. Along the way, there are ample opportunities to throw down your tent, if necessary. Potential tent sites dot the trail from Morrison Creek on. Again, you'll want to be sure you have enough water, or fuel to melt snow, since water sources here are spotty at best.

From the Lunch Counter, it's another grueling climb to Pikers Peak, but that's not all -- Pikers Peak is a false summit that nonetheless can take hours to reach. The wind here can be quite strong, so while you'll be pooped when you reach it, you may not want to stick around too long for your snack break.

But you'll want to have some sort of refueling stop before pushing on to the summit. It's a hefty push to the summit cone, and like most mountain climbing ventures, it's thin air towards the top.

From the summit, you can see Mounts Jefferson, Hood, St. Helens, and Rainier, and Baker on a clear day. Other peaks spread out in front of you, and despite the chill you may feel from the near-constant breeze at the summit, you'll want to be sure to take plenty of pictures and soak it all in before heading down.

WTA Pro Tip: A Cascade Volcano Pass is required May 1st through September 30th for anyone hiking above 7,000 feet, whether or not they are making a summit push. It is $10 for weekday trips and $15 for trips taking place Friday-Sunday. These may be purchased at the Mount Adams Ranger Station in Trout Lake or at the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station in Randle.

If you won't be going above 7,000 feet, then only a Northwest Forest Pass (purchase at ranger station) and Wilderness Permit (free, self-issue at trailhead) are required.


Mount Adams South Climb

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.1359, -121.4976 Open map in new window


South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area

South Climb (#183)

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount Adams Ranger District

See weather forecast

Getting There

From Trout Lake, drive on the Mount Adams Road north to a 'V' intersection with Forest Road 23. Veer right, and proceed about one mile to a left turn on to Forest Road 80, signed 'South Climb'. Stay on Forest Road 80 to where it ends at the intersection with Forest Road 8040 and 8031. Turn right onto Forest Road 8040 and drive north, past the Morrison Creek Campground to a trailhead located in the old Cold Springs Camp area.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

You can improve or add to this guidebook entry

Mount Adams South Climb

359 Trip Reports

Hiked here recently?

Submit a trip report!
Trip Reports