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Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham - IMBA EPIC

Difficult
 4.7 (83) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

20.4

Miles

32.9

KM

80%

Singletrack

4,552' 1,387 m

High

2,909' 887 m

Low

2,648' 807 m

Up

2,647' 807 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

31%

Max Grade (17°)

Dogs Leashed

E-Bikes Unknown

Overview

The EPIC route is an out-and-back that turns around at the the Windy Ridge Interpretive Site. This route is 20.8 miles and 80% singletrack. The loop options are alternatives that can add more adventure to your day but are not part of the EPIC route.

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Anthony Harasimowicz with improvements by Jessica Rockson

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 83 votes

#29

Overall
  4.7 from 83 votes
5 Star
78%
4 Star
17%
3 Star
4%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
1%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Washington

#29

Overall
364 Views Last Month
66,701 Since Nov 21, 2013
Difficult

0%
0%
22%
5%
73%
0%

Photos

Cody Olsen races the sun as Mount St. Helens looms over the valley of death. Seen to the right is the famous explosive face where the landslide and explosion happened.
Nov 1, 2017 near Morton, WA
Prepare to pedal. The entire out and back is a constant up and down
Nov 1, 2017 near Morton, WA
Cody Olsen holding a corner in the Plains of Abraham, lots of pebble like pumice terrain. Very different to ride on.
Nov 1, 2017 near Morton, WA
Descending Plains of Abraham Trail in the fog
Jan 4, 2015 near Morton, WA
Riding back from Windy Ridge facing Mt. Saint Helens which just emitted fumes.
Aug 16, 2014 near Morton, WA
Coming around to a great view of scared land and Mt. Adams in the distance
Nov 1, 2017 near Morton, WA

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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Check-Ins

Oct 16, 2020
Marcus Wilcher
Great ride from Ape Canyon Trailhead to Loowit Juction and back. A few hikers and a couple MTBrs. Conditions were good trail was in good shape. 12.2mi
Jul 28, 2020
James Bishop
Unique ride with amazing views of Mount Saint Helen's and maybe Bigfoot!
Jul 19, 2020
Dan Beel
Rode loop. 25mi
Nov 17, 2019
Mike Dahlquist
Nov 8, 2019
Jacko Jacko
Oct 3, 2019
Chip Carter
Light rain, trails still good with patches of snow from the storm a few days ago. Great Ride-will be back on a sunny day! 20.4mi — 4h 00m
Sep 2, 2019
Matt Deniston
Awww Yeah. Love this ride! 20mi — 3h 30m
Jul 31, 2019
Paul Stahlschmidt

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