Mt. St. Helens signature mountain biking ride is a combination of two trails. Ape Canyon Trail climbs on a ridge above its namesake canyon. Named for a purported Bigfoot sighting in 1924, the canyon is a steep ravine carved through the lower slopes of the volcano. At the top of Ape Canyon, the path intersects the more gently graded Plains of Abraham Trail. Here the route traverses a large volcanic ash field left by the devastating 1980 eruption. Our visit in August of 2011 was the first chance Becky had to ride this premium piece of trail. It was my second time on the route.
Since my last visit in 2008 riding conditions in the area have improved. The road to the trailhead is again open. On the Ape Canyon Trail the brush and downfalls have been cleared. The climb to the top no longer requires hike-a-bikes over downfalls. One thing remained unchanged about the climb on Ape Canyon Trail—there are a lot of bugs. Biting flies and mosquitoes accompanied our grind to the top. Swarming flesh-munching insects inspire an unrelenting effort to get to the top. If we stopped, we got eaten. We tried not to stop.
The Ape Canyon/Plains of Abraham out and back is spectacular. It is a unique trail. Where else can you ride on the pumice field recently spewed by an active volcano? The icing on the cake is the flowing slot car style Ape Canyon Trail descent. And there is more trail to ride in the area than we’ve tried. Mount St. Helens is more than a volcano; it is a mountain biking destination.
The full picture set is on Picasa.