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 Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Portland (Menasha Ridge Press)
Paul Gerald
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"As soon as you start walking, stay straight at an unsigned junction, and you’ll get your first glimpse of the contrasts ahead when you’ve walked only 500 feet on this trail. At this point you’ll be at the top of a little bluff, looking out over a wide area of rocks. Those rocks used to be on the upper slopes of Mount St. Helens, but on May 18, 1980, they tumbled down the hill at about 45 miles per hour, part of a lahar, or mudflow, triggered when the Shoestring Glacier melted moments after the volcano erupted. But the mudslide stayed generally within the boundaries of the Muddy River, so the forest you’re standing in—even though it was within feet of the slide— was spared. You’ll spend the next 5 miles climbing this ridge, but don’t worry: you’ll gain only around 1,500 net feet along the way." Read more
Day Hiking Mount St. Helens (The Mountaineers Books)
Craig Romano and Aaron Theisen
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"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." Read more
A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens (Falcon Guides)
Fred Barstad
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"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." Read more
Day Hiking: South Cascades (The Mountaineers Books)
Dan A. Nelson
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"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." Read more
Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon (Falcon Guides)
Adam Sawyer
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"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." Read more

Ape Canyon Trail Reviews

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5/27/2018
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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
Views
Features
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 360-449-7800, www.fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens
Local Contacts
USFS Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018