Ape Canyon Trail

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

Distance4.3mi
Elevation Gain2,981ft
Trailhead Elevation2,879ft
Top4,187ft
Elevation Min/Max2879/4187ft
Elevation Start/End2879/2879ft

Ape Canyon Trail

Ape Canyon Trail is a hiking and biking trail in Skamania County, Washington. It is within Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. It is 4.3 miles long and begins at 2,879 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 8.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 2,981 feet. The Ape Canyon Trailhead parking and the Ape Canyon Trailhead attraction are near the trailhead. Along the trail there are a shingle, a viewpoint, and a cliff. This trail connects with the following: Loowit Trail.

Ape Canyon Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"This trail visits two worlds not ordinarily seen: the upper reaches of a volcano and the edge of what they call the “blast zone.” Without too much climbing, you can stand in a wonderful old-growth forest and be about 20 feet from an area that was completely obliterated in 1980.

At the top, you’ll enjoy a sweeping view highlighted by an amazing geological oddity, right at the base of the volcano. Bring warm clothing. Weather at this altitude can change quickly."

"Hike along a ridge cloaked in old-growth timber above the nearly mile-wide Muddy River lahar. Take in excellent views of the south flank of Mount St. Helens, as well as Mount Adams in the distance. And marvel at the stark, tightly notched walls of Ape Canyon."

"The Ape Canyon Trail provides one of the best possible places to observe and study the effects that a large lahar has on the landscape. This route climbs along the edge of the huge Muddy River Lahar, then treats you to a spectacular view down the sharply cut upper gorge of Ape Canyon—and the possibility of being entertained by the marmots that live close by."

"A mile-wide lahar scoured portions of the Muddy River valley, while other parts of the canyon offer you features created by eons of erosion from floods and long-forgotten mudflows.

The trail takes you in and out of several small side basins, each providing a unique thrill. Some are filled with wildflowers and ferns. Others are rich woodlands. All are alive with birdsong and critter activity."

"The Ape Canyon Trail climbs gently as it leaves the trailhead. After a short distance, the path turns right along the bank of the Muddy River Lahar. Four-tenths of a mile from the trailhead the trail follows an abandoned roadbed for a short distance.

Flowers cover much of the open area in July. Watch for a colony of whistle pigs (hoary marmots) that inhabit the upper part of Ape Canyon above the gorge."

"This strenuous tour winds through a mystical red cedar and Douglas-fir forest and then takes you through part of the eruption zone in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Additional highlights are stunning views of Ape Canyon and Mount St. Helens.

This trail is consideried difficult, due to steep terrain, technical obstacles, and a steep section of stairs. Trail surface: 17.4 miles of singletrack; 3.6 miles of gravel road."

"The ride through this area starts with a climb on regenerated forest and old growth untouched by the eruption. It travels on the east side of the Lahar mudflow, which you can spy through the woods. Breaking out of the trees, past a delicate meadow, the full effect of the eruption emerges. The overlook atop Ape Canyon dramatically shows the path of a mudflow to its depths; the regenerating but stark blast zone shows the cycles of nature at its most dramatic.

Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams lie beyond the moonscape before you, as Mt. St. Helens rules the view. This ride is not for beginners. You don't have to make the whole trip to appreciate the grandeur of the location, though. If you're a strong intermediate-level rider with a sense of adventure, go for it--there's no shame in turning back before Windy Ridge Viewpoint. Scenery: Old-growth and regenerated forest on the climb up to ape Canyon viewpoint; in-your-face views of Mt. St. Helens as you travel through regenerating blast zone; views of volcanic neighbors Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams; more dramatic vistas from the windy Ridge Viewpoint."

"Some of the best singletrack within extended driving distance of Portland, the ride along the Ape Canyon Trail to the Plains of Abraham starts out in pristine forest but soon delivers you to the Mount St. Helens blast zone.

A classic out-and-back day ride starts at the Ape Canyon Trailhead and ascends to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. If you’re really adventurous and enjoy unpredictability, a loop descending the Smith Creek Trail should satiate that hunger nicely."

Ape Canyon Trail Reviews

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5/27/2018
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8/5/2008
A fantastic ride, when we did it the road was washed out and we had to park up at the ski hut and ride in along the road, but boy was it worth it. Check out my web site where I've done a full trip report with lots of pictures http://www.mtb-hol.com/MTBUSA2007/Day_4.html
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8/29/2007
This is an amazing hike. Stunning views. For sure a must do. The first rock is not tie in rock.
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8/7/2006
We got a late start so we started at Tilly Jane campground instead of Cloud Cap. We saved over 2 miles, but paid for it in elevation gain per mile (Got back to the car quicker that way, too). Difficult steep hike, lost the trail in a snow field near the top and had to scramble up loose rock. The views were amazing and Mt. Hood looked almost huggable from Cooper Spur. Eliot Glacier was rumbling and cracking...way cool! Make sure you're in decent shape...
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7/30/2006
A good ride, but more importantly, the terrain is unique to anywhere in the world. I mean, Holy Smokes!, a volcano! This ride is best done early in the day to avoid sun exposure. Also -- especially in late summer -- the weather can change quickly. Unless it's July/August I always pack a light shell to keep the wind off if it rains, etc. If you do the full loop -- down to the river bottom and back up the gravel road -- be sure to bring plenty of food. Even a race-fit rider will take 4 hours to knock this one out. Keep your eyes peeled for the wild flowers, which "seed" in the direction of the wind and for Marmot's and other vermin running around in the rocks. Also, from Portland it's a two hour drive to the trailhead, not an hour as some LBS's (Local Bike Shops)will tell you. There are great alternative maps done by the Feds. Just Google.
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10/19/2004
A very good trail for panoramic views! The trail is located above the tree line and runs along the glacier trough. We hiked the Cooper Spur in early September 2002 and LOVED IT! Words of advice: If you have an SUV or large car, take it. The LONG road to the trail is dirt, gravel and large rocks. We took my little Honda Civic hatchback and I drove around rocks bigger than my car! When you first come out on the ridge of the glacier, take a left and follow the ridgeline up the mountain. It's [the trail] not clearly marked (or wasn't then) and we went down into and on the other side of the glacier (though, that was fun).
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5/22/2004
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5/31/2001
The trail has about 4 or 5 blown down dead trees blocking the path in several areas. You can pick your bike up over them though. This trail is still my favorite of all the local trails due to the view and the lengthy climb at "altitude" (for us low-landers). This is by far the best work out and the largest payoff at the top. Plus you get a fun trip back down. At the top there are still some snow drifts and I did sink in to my knee on one of them. Plan to get a little wet right now. Please don't ride around the drifts - you will destroy sensitive vegetation and irritate those who keep the trail open to mountain bikers. It is rideable all the way to the Plains - but going across the Plains toward Windy Ridge can be a challenge with plenty of hike-a-bike across the snow drifts. There is still more riding involved than there is hiking in snow - so it is definitely a go at this point. Enjoy, and watch out for hikers. You will scare the crap out of them or worse yet- run over one - if you don't ride carefully coming down. Leave yourself room to stop going around the many blind corners. Bring at least the equivalent of two to three water bottles full of water and snacks - it can be from 4 to 5 hours round trip if you do the whole thing.
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Ape Canyon Trail Photos

Trail Information

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Nearby City
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Parks
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Local Contacts
Green Trails Mt St. Helens 332S
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Sep 2018