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5 Best Mountains to Climb in the Pacific Northwest – For Beginners

A group of climbers ascending a mountain in the Pacific Northwest.

Have you been thinking of mountain climbing but have no idea where to begin?

Are you experienced yet looking for a new challenge and a fresh perspective?

We’re sharing today our thoughts and ideas about the best climbing mountains in the Pacific Northwest. We’re focusing on the opportunities and challenges, the risks and rewards, of this monumental sport.

The five mountains covered here represent the absolute peak (pun intended) of serious climbing in the Pacific Northwest. For each summit, we’ve provided some background detail, highlighting the best climbing and accommodations on offer, as well as safety information.

1.  Mount St. Helens, Washington

An aerial view of snow-covered Mt. St. Helens.

This is a fantastic mountain to climb. Accessible almost year-round, with access to support structures in case of emergencies, Mount St. Helens is perfect for beginners or experienced climbers alike.

Requiring no specific technical skillsets other than basic outdoors smarts, the mountain caters to a wide span of ability levels. St. Helens not only welcomes climbers but also boasts sublime terrain for the backcountry skier.

The view from the rim, into the infamous blast zone, speaks volumes about the formidable nature of volcanoes. When arriving, make sure to check with the local ranger station for trip reports, conditions, and necessary permits.

2.  Mount Adams, Washington

An aerial view of snow-covered Mount Adams.

As a sister mountain to St. Helens, Adams is similarly accessible throughout the year. The peak is taller than St. Helens and thus offers an added challenge for the intrepid adventurer.

Winter months demand more time and effort just to arrive at base camp, as the roads leading to the trailheads are not plowed. Mount Adams directly caters to hikers, climbers, skiers, and anyone looking to expand their journey into the upper reaches of outdoor exploration.

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At the summit, you’ll find evidence of an old lookout tower during months when the snow melts. This hint of an intriguing history alone is worth a trek to the top. Again, be sure to check with local rangers for requisite trip reports, conditions, and permits.

3.  Mt Baker, Washington

A far-ff view of the show-covered Mt. Baker in Washington.

Baker is another large American volcano that is undoubtedly worth a visit. Even if you do not plan to summit the peak, this mountain offers unrivaled solitude and beauty to all who come.

Residing far from major metropolitan areas and 16 miles out from the nearest town, Baker is a unique proposition, open to whatever experience you may be seeking. Summer is a perfect time to consider your attempt at the summit, since the winter months can be punishing, with over 1100 inches of snowfall recorded in recent years.

However, the mountain is relatively accessible year-round for beginners and experts alike. The southern face is a great starting point for beginners who have properly done their homework.

After all, this is an immense mountain to scale. As always, remember to check with the local ranger station for trip reports, conditions, and permits.

4. Mount Hood, Oregon

A view of the south side of Mt. Hood.

Mount Hood reaches the highest point in Oregon. As one of the most climbed mountains in the world, it is a veritable high elevation playground.

Do not be fooled by its accessibility, however. Hood, like any serious mountain, holds risks that need to be vigilantly managed. The area is home to year-round resort and backcountry skiing, climbing, hiking, photographic opportunities, and more.

More notably, the south side of the mountain plays host to Timberline Lodge, a historic waypoint where you can dine, drink, and enjoy an overnight stay.

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Experiencing Timberline can make for a more complete experience in your mountain climbing endeavors. Along with an informative kiosk for mountain climbers of all abilities, check with local rangers for trip reports, conditions, and permits.

5. Mount Thielsen, Oregon

The south side of Mt. Thielsen in the summer.

Thielsen is perhaps lesser known than its Pacific Northwest brethren, standing three and a half hours south of Portland. As part of the Southern Cascade Mountains, it offers abundant climbing opportunities for the entire spectrum of climbers. Mount Thielsen is an older volcano, accessible throughout the year.

As with Mount Baker, summertime witnesses the best opportunities for climbers, offering a well-maintained trail to the summit. Nearing the summit, you must make a choice. The final stretch is wildly steep, requiring ‘hand-over-hand’ scrambling that may be too daunting for more casual climbers. Never be too shy about bringing all necessary safety equipment and ensuring that you’re familiar with every piece. Consider safety first once you reach the top.

This mountain offers a unique pairing of challenge levels, with relatively gentle summer hikes and extreme summit climbs requiring decision making on your ability and confidence levels. As always, never forget to check with the local ranger station for trip reports, conditions, and permits.

We hope this list has been enlightening for all of the climbers out there seeking the stark beauty and challenge that the best of the Pacific Northwest offers. These mountains are the pinnacle of climbing experience in North America, with specific challenges and personalities unique to each peak. If you’re looking for the most welcome entry into the world of mountain climbing, look no further. If you’re an experienced adventurer, grab your equipment and head out toward these five apex climbs!

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(c) 2015