Ape Canyon -> Plains of Abraham -> Smith Creek Loop

Tour "the lunar landscape of the Mt. St. Helens blast zone" on this epic backcountry ride!

Mountain Biking Severe

Distance
37 km
Ascent
1.4 km
Descent
1.4 km
Duration
3-4 hrs
Low Point
519 m
High Point
1.4 km
Gradient
Ape Canyon -> Plains of Abraham -> Smith Creek Loop Map

One of the most famous backcountry epics in the state of Washington provides an up-close and personal tour of "the lunar landscape of the Mt. St. Helens blast zone,” as Abby Joffe puts it on RootsRated.com.

Description

It’s "safe to say there is no other ride quite like this anywhere in the States,” according to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. While the Ape Canyon to Plains of Abraham ride begins by climbing up a narrow singletrack deep in a PNW forest, it soon breaks out into the blast zone and lava flow area, providing a truly surreal landscape for a mountain bike ride. The stunning terrain helps this route routinely top the list of the best mountain bike trails in Washington, and the USA as a whole.

Once you hit the Plains, you’ll spend miles traversing the absolutely unreal landscape and surfing through the volcanic pumice. After the initial 1,650-vertical-foot climb, the singletrack rolls up and down for the rest of its length, before reaching the Plains of Abraham trailhead.

You can choose to turn around at the Plains of Abraham Trailhead for the IMBA Epic out-and-back version of this ride. But for an even more epic backcountry adventure, continue on and turn it into a loop with the Smith Creek Trail!

The Smith Creek Trail is more technical than anything you’ve ridden up to this point. According to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, "you start by descending into the Smith Creek drainage on a steep, rocky and easy to lose trail roughly following the creek through dangerous and unstable washouts and river crossings.” They warn that “there is a dangerous 50 foot washed out section of trail between Smith Creek and Ape Canyon creek that goes across an unstable ridge, with sharp drops off to either creek on both sides.”

Furthermore, portions of the Smith Creek trail are overgrown, and the ride finishes with a final 1,300-vertical-foot push back to the Ape Canyon Trailhead. All told, this brutal backcountry loop clocks 23 miles of riding and almost 4,500 feet of elevation gain and descent!

This ride is NOT for the faint of heart!

Sources: https://rootsrated.com/portland-or/mountain-biking/ape-canyon-to-the-plains-of-abraham https://www.evergreenmtb.org/trails/mt-saint-helens https://www.outdoorproject.com/united-states/washington/ape-canyon-plains-abraham

Difficulty

Severe

Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Technical
  • Picturesque
  • Singletrack
  • Rock Gardens

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area