Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham

 46 votes
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Featured Ride

16.2 Miles 26.1 Kilometers



2,790' 850 m


-2,788' -850 m


4,570' 1,393 m


2,892' 881 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (14°)



An amazing journey back in time to the scene of the Mt. St. Helens eruption.

Anthony Harasimowicz


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.


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 youll 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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4.7 from 46 votes

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Sep 25, 2016
Tomas Cabigao
Sep 10, 2016
Aden W
Sep 10, 2016
Kenny Davis
Aug 28, 2016
Wacek Godycki
Up Abe Canyon, down Smith Creek. Wouldn't recommend the other way round 21mi
Aug 27, 2016
Eric vdH
16.2mi — 3h 14m
Aug 27, 2016
Steven Fricke
Aug 22, 2016
Scott Heinichen
Aug 14, 2016
Eddie E
w/ Schneider

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Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 46 votes


  4.7 from 46 votes
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I agree with you, conditionally, Patrick: you should not drive out to this trail IF you are strictly interested in fun/fast/flowy/technical (etc.) high quality MTB trail. But why would anyone go here if that's all they wanted? This trail is for getting out into some wild and unique terrain, and you should take your bike with you because it's WAY more fun than hiking and allows you to cover a lot more ground. You are correct that it's not world class bike trail, but that doesn't capture all of what makes mountain biking a great experience. I should also add that the sections on Ape Canyon that are like cheerios are so short that they almost aren't worth mentioning in my opinion- so if you're thinking about this trail and reading this, don't let that comment scare you off. Most of the trail once you get out of the trees is similar to riding gravel road- just fine (except north end smith creek trail- terribly loose there). But I also ride sloppy stuff all winter so maybe my bar is set lower. So if you aren't concerned with exploring somewhere new and remote, and the amazing scenery and terrain this trail has to offer (and sometime's I'm not concerned about these things myself), then Patrick's comments are pretty spot-on. Jul 1, 2016

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPThNzrikG4 VIDEO FROM OUR RIDE Aug 9, 2016

Awesome singletrack in the forest and strange singletrack out on the plains a must do trail. For more information please visit Mountain Bike Arkansas - www.mtbark.com Sep 12, 2016

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