From Evergreen Trail Guide
This is an incredible ride. Safe to say there is no other ride quite like this anywhere in the states. Climb through a forest that somehow survived the blast of St. Helens with views getting better and better the farther you climb. You will pop out of the woods and begin traversing the Plains of Abraham. Some more climbing, descending, and surfing the pumice and you will hit a gated logging road that will take you to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. Turn around and ride back the way you came. Finally enjoy the fast smooth descent back to the parking lot.
This trail is also part of the Smith Creek - Ape Canyon - Plains of Abraham epic ride. See also the Smith Creek page.
How to find it
- I-5 south to Exit 21 at Woodland.
- Hwy 503 / Lewis River Rd East towards Cougar. (continue 23 miles)
- Straight onto Lewis River Rd (don't turn south onto 503). (continue 8.6 miles)
- Lewis River Rd becomes NFD Rd 90. (continue 3.2 miles)
- Left on NFD Rd 83 and follow it to the end (11.2 miles).
The Ape Creek trailhead and Lava Canyon trailhead are separate paved spurs at the end of FR-83. You want to bear onto the spur that goes left to find the (signed) trail entrance. This takes 1.5 to 2 hours driving time from I-5.
The lower section (Ape Canyon) is a generally buff forest singletrack with occasional technical root areas, and is maintained well. Watch out for a lot of hikers on this, especially on the fast descent back down.
Once you break out onto the plains, it will be all rock/pumice/scree fields, some areas with exposure. There will be no shade. Significant (obstructing) snow may hold into late June.
The latter portion of the route to the Windy Ridge lookout consists of decommissioned doubletrack with some areas of standing water.
[9/8/20112] Ape Canyon trail is in great condition. Trails #216 and 216D are dry and loose, just like you would expect this time of year. All-in-all a great ride. Get some before the snow flies!
[06/27/2012, from David Anderson] The Forest Service has bucked out Ape Canyon Trail! Yesterday three individuals from Mount St Helens Institute, NWTA & Evergreen brushed it out, checked drains and noted places for work projects during Helens Fest. There is snow above Ape Canyon and up on the Plains - including the remains of a large snow avalanche!
Reference forest service page for their posted current conditions: Ape Canyon Trail #234
Early season, check June Lake SnoTel for lingering snow.
Ape canyon trail #234 climbs in lush forest affording peek-a-boo views of St. Helens and the Muddy River drainage. At approximately 4.5 miles, you'll break out of the trees for spectacular views to Mt. Adams and across to the Plains of Abraham. Shortly after breaking out of the trees, trail #234 intersects trail #216 and you want to stay right onto #216. From here on out the trail surface becomes more difficult to ride with loose sand, pumice and scree and you'll be off your bike in places. The views from the Plains of Abraham are spectacular. At around mile 6, you will reach the intersection with trail #216D. Stay right onto #216D and continue riding through a series of drainages and to the knife edged ridge. Enjoy the run down this ridge and you will come to the stairs. Many walk, some ride, and others surf the pumice next to the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs you'll climb a short ridge to a dirt/gravel road (trail #207) where you turn right for 2 miles of very gradual uphill to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. Retrace your steps back to the car 22 miles round trip.
Download the KML file here: File:Ape Canyon.kml
Local Points of Interest
Eagles Cliff General Store and Campground Cougar, WA It is a Satellite so let it ring a bit. 360-326-8614 Cabins, bunkhouse, campground. (Under new ownership now, they are very rude and have no problems yelling at their customers) Hawkens 19:15, 8 August 2007 (PDT) There is a burger Stand here that has some good food. If you need Gas get it in Cougar or before you leave Woodland.
Take note that although there are bathrooms (read: latrines) at Windy Ridge Viewpoint, there is NO water.
Lots of people turn this ride into a loop as part of the Smith Creek Epic.
Senator Maria Cantwell has proposed turning Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument (administered by the Forest Service) into a National Park. PUMP, IMBA and BBTC have been actively working with our Congressional delegation to ensure that whether Mount Saint Helens becomes a National Park, or not, all existing mountain bike access is maintained. See Mount St. Helens for more information.