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.