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Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham

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 4.9 from 11 votes
  Intermediate/Difficult from 2 votes
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Rank: #1 in Mount St. Helens
#1 in Washington
#20 Overall
Featured Ride near
“An amazing journey back in time to the scene of the Mt. St. Helens eruption.”
Anthony Harasimowicz on Nov 21, 2013
Getting There     GPX File     Print
16.2 Miles 100% Singletrack 2,790’ Ascent -2,788’ Descent 2,892’ Low 4,570’ High
Overview
This ride initially takes you up the secluded but strenuous Ape Canyon Trail before continuing to the upper trail segments. As you ride along the canyon near the top of the climb, the views and terrain transform from shady forest to an amazing moonscape. The balance of the ride is across the vast pumice fields on the Loowit and Plains of Abraham trails at the base of Mt. St. Helens with views of several other peaks as well.
Description
Starting from the small parking area at the Ape Canyon trailhead off of FS 83, begin climbing up the shady singletrack of the Ape Canyon Trail (#234). As you head up the trail and turn to the right, the first views of Mt. St. Helens are straight ahead looking from the south. Continue to climb up the well-traveled trail with a few switchbacks and sporadic views of the mountain.

Near the top of the climb pass the steep slopes and rocky exposure of Ape Canyon on the right with a perfect view of Mt. Adams to the east. Next, ride through the moonlike pumice fields on a short stretch of the Loowit Trail (#216) and toward Pumice Butte where you’ll see the remnants of trees that resemble pushed over matchsticks. Continue north to the Plains of Abraham Trail (#216D) with incredible up close views of Mt. St. Helens’ eastern slope.

Signposts note the trail junctions and mileage and dark volcanic rock cairns help identify the route. The trail climbs and descends along a hillside ridge to Windy Ridge Road (FS 99), but a good turnaround point is at the long staircase just south of the road. Before starting the return trip, catch a view to the north of the top of Mt. Rainier and then enjoy the downhill run on the Ape Canyon Trail.
History & Background
It was early Sunday morning on May 18, 1980 when Mt. St. Helens erupted and leveled nearly 230 square miles of forest and sent 520 million tons of ash eastward across the United States. This scenic ride takes to the scene of that devastation and straight into the blast zone.
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Recent Conditions
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dry, some washout areas, windy, some hike a bike
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COMMENTS
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PHOTOS of Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham
 4.6 from 5 votes
Riding back from Windy Ridge facing Mt. Saint Helens which just emitted ... (Morton, WA)
 4.3 from 3 votes
Surfing the pumice fields on the way to the Plains of Abraham Trail at t... (Morton, WA)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Climbing up a ridge on the scenic Plains of Abraham Trail at the base of... (Morton, WA)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Getting up close and personal views of Mt. St. Helens from the Ape Canyo... (Morton, WA)
 3.7 from 3 votes
A rock cairn marks the route with Mt. St. Helens in the background. (Morton, WA)
 3.3 from 3 votes
The sign marker for the beginning of the Plains of Abraham, one of the I... (Morton, WA)
 3.0 from 3 votes
The end of the Ape Canyon trail, once you leave the forest. This shot wa... (Morton, WA)
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