Ape Canyon

Mount St. Helens

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Ape Canyon

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  • View of Mount St. Helens (8,365') on the drive toward the Ape Canyon Trail.- Ape Canyon
  • A Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis) crossing a washout.- Ape Canyon
  • Mount St. Helens (8,365') from the Ape Canyon Trail.- Ape Canyon
  • The slopes of Mount St. Helens (8,365') from the Ape Canyon Trail.- Ape Canyon
  • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).- Ape Canyon
  • A view of Mount Adams (12,281') from Ape Canyon.- Ape Canyon
  • The landscape was irrevocably altered by the 1980s eruption.- Ape Canyon
  • Mount St. Helens (8,365') from the Ape Canyon Trail.- Ape Canyon
  • Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus).- Ape Canyon
  • The Plains of Abraham on the flanks of Mount St. Helens.- Ape Canyon
  • Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus).- Ape Canyon
  • The Plains of Abraham on the flanks of Mount St. Helens.- Ape Canyon
  • A mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) keeps an eye on things in Ape Canyon. - Ape Canyon
  • The water that trickles off of the southern edge of Ape Canyon.- Ape Canyon
  • Looking up at Mount St. Helens from Ape Canyon.- Ape Canyon
  • Mount Adams (12,281') viewed from the top of Ape Canyon.- Ape Canyon
  • Early summer tracks on the trail to Ape Canyon.- Ape Canyon
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Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Secluded. Great views of Mount St. Helens and the blast zone. Great views of the surrounding volcanoes.
Cons: 
No water source.
Region:
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, WA
Congestion: 
Low
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
NW Forest Pass
Total Distance: 
9.60 mi (15.45 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
2,762 ft (842 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
1,549 ft (472 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking, Biking
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Dogs allowed: 
Yes

Current Local Weather

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Snow (2–5 in.) throughout the day.
32°F
24°

Tue

Snow (1–4 in.) throughout the day.
35°F
28°

Wed

Rain throughout the day.
38°F
33°

Thu

Mixed precipitation throughout the day.
38°F
34°

Fri

Mixed precipitation (3–7 in. of snow) throughout the day.
40°F
34°

Sat

Snow (5–9 in.) throughout the day.
35°F
31°

Sun

Snow (2–5 in.) throughout the day.
31°F
24°
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The Ape Canyon hike, not to be confused with Ape Caves, is one of the most spectacular hikes in the Mount St. Helens area. The canyon was named for an alleged Bigfoot encounter in the 1920s: supposedly, the creature was throwing rocks at miners in the area, though it was later discovered that the Sasquatch was a local youth in a costume.

The trailhead can be found just before the parking lot for Lava Canyon, and the hike is a great opportunity to experience the unique and surreal landscape of the blast zone that was created when Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. About 500 feet into the hike there is a little bluff that will give hikers a chance to view Mount St. Helens and the gray and rust colored rocks that were formerly the upper slopes of the volcano.

The trail follows the ridge of a landslide that was triggered when Shoestring Glacier melted moments after Mount St. Helens erupted. The mudslide was contained within Muddy River, so the forest through which the trail winds was mostly unharmed. For the next 5 miles the trail climbs this ridge, winding through the old-growth forest and only gaining about 1,300 feet in elevation. Enjoy awesome views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and, of course, an increasingly intriguing perspective on Mount St. Helens.

The end of the forest and beginning of the blast zone is found about 4.4 miles into the hike at the head of Ape Canyon. Here, the 300-foot V-shaped mouth of Ape Canyon takes shape as Mount Adams can be seen in the distance. The intersection with Loowit Trail is just 0.2 miles further, but stay to the right to continue on the Ape Canyon Trail. Hiking across the desolation caused by the eruption is otherworldly. The trail becomes somewhat faint and can be lost under snow, but the area is open and easy to explore. Look for white mountain goats, as they frequently sunbathe on the treeless hillsides. After fording snow melt and crossing the pumice flatland known as the Plains of Abraham, find the end of the trail at the stream that trickles off of the cliff's southern edge.

 

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Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(7 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(47 within a 30 mile radius)

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