Ape Canyon

  • Difficult (to Plains of Abraham)
  • 9 miles round trip
  • 1300 feet elevation gain
  • Open July through October
  • Use: hikers, bicycles


  • Difficult (to Windy Ridge)
  • 26.2-mile loop
  • 2800 feet elevation gain

Mountain bikers and hikers all puff while climbing this trail, on a forested ridge beside a mile-wide mudflow with views up to Mt. St. Helens’ decapitated rim. The top of the trail offers a view down Ape Canyon’s eerie, 300-foot-tall rock slot at the edge of the 1980 blast zone. Before turning back, hikers generally continue another 0.8 mile to a clifftop spring at the Plains of Abraham, a once-desolate cinder plain that’s now a field of blue lupine. Mountain bikers generally don’t turn back at all—they continue on a challenging 26.2-mile loop via Windy Ridge and the Smith River Trail.

Ape Canyon won its name in 1924 when an ape-like creature threw rocks at two miners in a cabin here. In 1982 an old-timer confessed that he and another boy had staged the entire incident. But in the meantime the Sasquatch tale inspired a local Boy Scout group to name Ape Cave (see Ape Cave Hike), a lava tube 8 miles away on the mountain’s south flank. Today, visitors are often confused that the canyon and cave are otherwise unrelated and are located so far apart.

To start, drive Interstate …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington.