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10 Best Mountains to Climb in the Pacific Northwest

The west coast of the United States is home to the stunning Cascade Mountain Range and the best mountains to climb in the Pacific Northwest. The area has drawn mountaineers and adventurers from around the world for decades.


The Cascade Mountains are some of the tallest in the United States and feature the most varied and glaciated terrain of any mountain range within the country.



Below are the 10 best mountains to climb in the Pacific Northwest. This list will take you from the immense slopes of Mount Shasta in Northern California to the rocky summit block of Mount Thielsen in Central Oregon.


Capping off the list is a mountain so well-known that it consistently draws the world's best mountaineers and is commonly cited as one of the most impressive (and dangerous!) in the world. Let's start traversing the Pacific Northwest!



Best Mountains in the Pacific Northwest

A quick reference guide to the location of the mountains on this list:


Mountains in Washington

  • Mount Adams

  • Mount Rainier

  • Mount St. Helens

  • Mount Baker

Mountains in Oregon

  • Mount Hood

  • Mount Jefferson

  • Mount Thielsen

Mountains in California

  • Lassen Peak

  • Mount Shasta

Mountains in British Columbia

  • Mount Garibaldi



Mountains in the Pacific Northwest Map





10. Lassen Peak (Kohm Yah-mah-nee)


Location: Shasta County, California

Height: 10,457 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Lassen Peak Summit Trail from Lassen National Park

Lassen Peak
The rocky summit of Lassen Peak in California

Lassen Peak, or Mount Lassen, is the northernmost mountain on this list. It is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the northern Sacramento Valley.


While not as intimidating-looking as some others, Lassen Peak is a potentially dangerous peak; the last eruption, in 1915, devasted surrounding areas. Lassen Peak is one of two volcanoes, the other being Mount St. Helens, to erupt in the contiguous United States in the 20th century.


9. Mount Shasta (Waka-nunee-Tuki-wuki)

Location: Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Height: 14,179 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Mount Shasta via Avalanche Gulch

Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta reflecting the sunrise in California

Mount Shasta is the second of two mountains in California on this list. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be potentially active. It reaches an incredible height of 14,179 ft and is the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range.


Shasta is also the largest, by mass, of any peak in the range, with an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles. Potential climbers and hikers shouldn't underestimate its immense size. A successful ascent of Shasta requires a great deal of hard work and, likely, a very early morning.


The Avalanch Gulch summit trail ascends 7,122 ft in 5.15 miles for a total round trip of 7,122 miles. Most parties chose to climb the mountain over two days.


Mountains of the World




8. Mount Adams (Pahto)

Location: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

Height: 12,281 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Lunch Counter Approach (South Climb)

Mount Adams
Mount Adams on a clear PNW day.

Mount Adams is the second-tallest mountain in Washington, after Mount Rainier, and is often seen from Portland and Seattle. It's around 37 miles from Mount St. Helens and 50 miles south of Rainier.


The peak is named for President John Adams and is another Cascade mountain that's considered an easy, mostly safe, climb. Mountaineers ascend steep, although not overly so, slopes for many miles before reaching a false summit. The final summit sits at an elevation of 12,2181 ft.


Interestingly, at different points in the mountain's life, the glaciers on its flanks eroded, taking the height down to around 8,200 ft.


7. Mount Hood (Wy'east)

Location: Clackamas/Hood River Counties

Height: 7,706 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Southside from Timberline Lodge

Mount Hood
Mount Hood from the forest in Oregon

Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon and the most prominent for residents of Portland, Vancouver (Washington), and the towns along the Columbia River Gorge. Scientists believe the volcano is "potentially" active but do not think an eruption is going to happen anytime soon. In fact, Mount Hood is known as a prime skiing destination, offering locals and tourists incredible views of the Pacific Northwest from the Timberline Lodge.


It's also at the Lodge that most summit climbs begin. Mount Hood is considered to be a straightforward glacier climb that's best completed in the late spring and early summer. Later or early conditions may mean mountaineers are faced with sheets of steep ice, up to 50 degrees, or loose, dangerous rockfall.


6. Mount Jefferson (Seekseekqua)

Location: Jefferson, Linn, and Marion Counties, Oregon

Height: 10,502 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Whitewater Glacier

Mount Jefferson
Mount Jefferson on a foggy day in Oregon

Mount Jefferson is a stratovolcano located in Central Oregon in the Cascade Volcanic Arc. It is the second-highest mountain in Oregon, after Mt. Hood, and last erupted in 950 AD. The mountain's slopes are popular with tourists and locals alike. But, successful summit climbs are much rarer.


Mount Jefferson has a reputation for being dangerous, unpredictable, and covered in loose rock. Near the top, mountaineers are faced with a steep traverse through a "no fall" zone, where rock fall is widespread, before facing the final challenge of the summit block. Luckily, it seems, a pending volcanic eruption is not one of Jefferson's many dangers,



5. Mount Thielsen (Big Cowhorn)

Location: Douglas and Klamath Counties, Oregon

Height: 9,184 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Mt. Thielsen Summit Trail

Mount Thielsen
Mount Thielsen from the highway

Mount Thielsen is an extinct volcano in Central Oregon, part of the High Cascades. The volcano's unusual shape attracts hikers and climbers from around the Pacific Northwest.


The well-maintained first part of the trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail along the upper slopes of Mount Thielsen before heading straight up through a scree field. Hikers should be aware that a Class 3 or 4 scramble up an 80-foot rock spire is required to reach the true summit. Despite this, the trail can be quite crowded in the summer.


Recently, scientists have determined that the Thielsen Glacier has completely disappeared (due to rising yearly temperatures). But, they believe it could reform in the future.


4. Mount St. Helens (Loowit)

Location: Skamania County, Washington

Height: 8,363 ft

Summit Trail: Mount St. Helens Summit via Ptarmigan Trail

Mount St. Helens
A view of Mount St. Helens and the lava flow

Mount St. Helens is high on our list of mountains in the Pacific Northwest. This striking Washington peak is permanently marked in the history books after erupting on May 18th, 1980. The event killed fifty-seven people and destroyed around 200 homes. Debris from the eruption can still be seen around the mountain's barren slopes.


Successful summits of Mount St. Helens are common year-round. Two different widely popular trails ascend to the crater's rim and the mountain's summit. The most common begins at the Climber's Bivouac and then meets with the Ptarmigan Trail over 4,583 feet of gain in 4.1 miles.



3. Mount Garibaldi (Nch'kaỷ)

Location: Sea-to-Sky Corridor, British Columbia, Canada

Height: 8,786 ft

Summit Trail: Mount Garibaldi via Diamond Head

Mount Garibaldi
Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia, Canada

Mount Garibaldi is located in British Columbia, around 50 miles north of Vancouver. Its uneven ridgeline distinguishes it from surrounding peaks and helps to solidify its place as British Columbia's best-known volcano.


The most popular route up the mountain begins in Diamond Head, just outside Squamish, British Columbia. It ascends around 5,600 feet.


2. Mount Baker (Koma Kulshan)

Location: Whatcom County, Washington

Height: 10,786 ft

Popular Summit Trail: Coleman/Deming Glacier or Heliotrope Ridge

Mount Baker
Mount Baker on a stunning day in the Pacific Northwest

Also known as "P-kowitz," meaning "White Mountain," Baker is one of the crown jewels of the North Cascade Mountain Range. It is an active stratovolcano located around 30 miles from Bellingham. It is heavily covered in glaciers, second only to Mount Rainier.


Mount Baker is the third-highest mountain in Washington and the fifth-highest in the Cascade Range.


The Coleman route up Mount Baker is a popular, straightforward glacier climb that ascends more than 8,000 feet over 5.5 miles. Many parties choose to split the ascent over two or more days, but one-day ascents are very common.


1. Mount Rainier (Tahoma)

Location: Pierce and Lewis Counties, Washington

Height: 14,417 ft

Summit Trail: Disappointment Cleaver

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier at sunset in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington

No list of mountains in the Pacific Northwest would be complete without Mount Rainier. Rising to an incredible 14,417 ft, Rainier can be seen throughout the Pacific Northwest and is on the "to do" list of mountaineers around the world.


Rainier, also known as Tacoma and Tacobet, is a stratovolcano located in Mount Rainier National Park, around 59 miles from Seattle. The mountain is vast, with a more prominent topographic presence than the second-tallest mountain in the world-K2. The mountain also boasts 26 major glaciers and two volcanic craters.


As residents of the Pacific Northwest know well, Mount Rainier will likely erupt sometime in the future. The last eruption was in 1450 CE. Today the mountain is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. The citizens of Washington, Oregon, and the surrounding states (even into British Columbia!) will probably contend with the effects of an eruption at some point.


Did you climb any mountains in the Pacific Northwest? Tell us about your experience in the comments!


Have any beta or suggestions? Please share it with the Traverse the PNW community.



FAQs

What are the major mountains of the Pacific Northwest?

Some of the major mountains in the Pacific Northwest are:

  • Mount Rainier

  • Mount Hood

  • Mount Baker

  • Mount Jefferson

  • Mount Garibaldi

  • Mount Shasta

These six peaks are a few of the tallest and most impressive-looking in the Pacific Northwest.


What are the five major mountains in Washington state?

The five major mountains in Washington State are:

  • Mount Rainier

  • Mount Adams

  • Mount St. Helens

  • Mount Baker

  • Glacier Peak

There are others, many of which are far more dangerous, interesting, and challenging than the largest and most prominent in the state.


Does the Pacific Northwest have mountains?

Yes, the Pacific Northwest has many mountains! This area of the United States plays host to some of the tallest mountains in North America, including Mount Rainier. The Cascade Mountain Range of the Pacific Northwest is one of the world's most beautiful and popular ranges.


Where are the Pacific Northwest mountains?

The Pacific Northwest mountains are located in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, all the way through California to northwestern Mexico.


Which mountains stretch across Oregon and Washington?

The Cascade Mountain range stretches across Oregon and Washington. It includes famous peaks like Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood, among others.

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