Washington’s most overlooked mountaintop

Glacier Peak
Glacier Peak as seen from the Pacific Crest Trail, September 2013. This image shows the west side of Glacier Peak (elev. 10541 ft.), a young stratovolcano located in the Cascade Range, eastern Snohomish County, Washington. Prominent glaciers are the slightly curved Scimitar Glacier, in the center of the photo, and the Kennedy Glacier, to the left. Image courtesy of Tim Olson and J. Eric Schuster.

May is Volcano Awareness Month in Washington State, and DNR’s Ear to the Ground is featuring one of our state’s five active volcanoes throughout the month.

Today, let’s take a look at Washington’s least-recognized volcano, Glacier Peak.

Located in a wilderness area in eastern Snohomish County, Glacier Peak is not easily visible from any major metropolitan centers, and so the hazards (and attractions) of this 10,451-foot peak may get overlooked. The peak wasn’t known by settlers to be a volcano until the 1850’s, when Native Americans mentioned to naturalist George Gibbs that “another smaller peak to the north of Mount Rainier once smoked.”

Yet, as KING5 recently reported, Glacier Peak has produced larger and more explosive eruptions than any other Washington volcano except Mount St. Helens. Glacier Peak is only 70 miles from Seattle, which puts it closer to the state’s largest metropolitan area than any volcano except Mount Rainier.

Eruptions of Glacier Peak have characteristically produced large volumes of volcanic ash and airborne pumice that could endanger the closest centers of population. The last major eruption of Glacier Peak was around the year 1700.

Glacier Peak hazardsWe want our awareness-raising about Washington State volcano threats to encourage preparation and not raise unnecessary alarm, so here is the very latest on alert levels for Cascade Range volcanoes from the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory.

DNR and its Division of Geology and Earth Resources help map, monitor and educate the public, governments and others about geologic hazards, including volcanoes.

Join our discussion on Facebook about your favorite volcano in Washington State.