Ape Canyon Trail

HARD 67 reviews

Ape Canyon Trail is a 9.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Cougar, Washington that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, birding, and mountain biking and is best used from May until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
9.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,083 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

camping

hiking

mountain biking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

This is an incredible trail. Safe to say there is nothing quite like this anywhere in the states. You climb through a forest that somehow survived the blast of St. Helens with views getting better and better the farther you climb. Then, you pop out of the woods and begin traversing the Plains of Abraham.

hiking
1 month ago

Wonderful hike. Some bugs but not unbearable. We arrived early and didn’t see many other hikers until we were close to the car. There was a nice little stream that we ate lunch at and soaked out feet in at the very top of the hike.

hiking
1 month ago

This trail is one of my new favorites. Started up early and foot/bike traffic was light, but as the day wore on it got heavier - especially the mountain bikes. All the riders were super conscientious and polite though so sharing the trail was fine. I do have to say though, it’s a bit nerve wracking on the hike down to be keeping your ears open for bikes speeding up behind you.

Most of the hike is in the trees (beautiful old growth timber) on a ridge with some views of Mts. Hood, Adams and Rainier. There are also good views of the lahar. At the top where the trail meets with the Loowit Trail you are blessed with fantastic views of all four peaks. It’s just awesome. Still quite a few wildflowers blooming, even in September.

We got back to our car at about 2:00 and the parking was ridiculous. People were parked all up and down the road. Be aware if go, especially on the weekend.

hiking
2 months ago

Hiked up just past where ape canyon trail intersects loomit loop, ate lunch, hiked back down. Clocked it at 10.3mi in 5 hrs including stops (doggy sniffing included).

* dusty and dry. BRING WATER especially for furry friends - there are 0 spots for them to drink from any bodies of water. Period.
* pretty flat footing all the way up since it’s a mixed use trail used by many mountain bikers.
* steady incline with a few ups and downs. No steep bits. I would put this on the easy side of moderate, with the only moderate part being the length. It really was quite an easy hike.
* all the mountain bikers we ran into were super respectful and conscious of hikers being on trail.
* great views of St. Helens, Adams, and even Rainier!
* bugs weren’t bad in the morning, but got bad as the day got hot. There were only a few mosquitoes towards the beginning, and the rest of the way up it was just a lot of flies. They were more annoying than anything. We got very few bites from the mosquitoes and the rare biting fly. Once we popped out onto the plains, there was an amazing breeze and the bugs were gone.
* LOTS of other trails to connect to and directions to go in once you reach the plains if you’re looking for a longer trek.

hiking
2 months ago

It's definitely not 'hard' as the description would indicate, as the inclines are manageable, and it's not too long. That said, it is definitely buggy, and you should plan to be harassed by the bugs for your entire time in the trees. It's a gorgeous trail though, and one I'd recommend for sure. Btw...I just read some of the other reviews from the last day or two. the bugs aren't as bad as the others let on. I mean...you're out in the woods...sheesh. Wear some sleeves and a hat and you'll be fine. I don't ever wear bugspray and didn't have many bites.

Also - note that this trail gets a LOT of MTB traffic. Plan accordingly for that if you're going to head up it. I personally start early in the morning so I get all of the bikes on their way up. If you catch them all headed downhill I could see this being pretty sketchy.

hiking
2 months ago

Went on a Wednesday and only passed a few hikers and bikers. The bugs we're out but as long as I was moving and had my windbreaker zipped up they we're tolerable. (but literally no stopping allowed) once you get out of the trees (~4miles) the bugs are gone and there are wide open plains to walk through with spectacular mountain views. around mile 5 the trail intersects the loowit River trail. I believe you are "supposed" to take the right fork as far as you want. There is a good stopping place around 5.25 miles but I wanted to make it an even 6 so I continued on through the planes. the incline was very mild and even though you climb quite a bit, it is spread out evenly through the whole hike so it is never too much of an ass burner! I could do without the bugs but all in all and great hike. (finished 12 miles in 4.5 hours- a PR for me!)

hiking
3 months ago

I wanted so bad to enjoy this hike, but the bugs were completely unbearable. We made it a little over halfway, but anytime we stopped along the trail to let mountain bikes pass, or take a water break, our bodies were covered head to toe in what appeared to be flies. They would not let up. I was fully covered, and still, my ears and face were covered in bugs.There was no serenity to this hike at all whatsoever.
If you’re thinking you’re prepared for bugs, think again. We got to the point we were spraying bug spray as we walked. We doused ourselves in spray prior to the hike, and had little OFF fans. Still, nothing. I envy anyone that could get past these critters.

hiking
3 months ago

BUGS... BUGS... BUGS... BUGS. Terrible bugs - despite all of us using spray and wrist bands - didn't matter. Would be a nice hike to try when the bugs are off season (when is that?).

hiking
3 months ago

Just did this trail for the first time on 7/7/18 and we thought we were prepared for the clouds of angry bugs... We weren't. But once you get up out of the woods they thin out to mostly just chill honey bees just doing their thing with the wildflowers. Bring a jacket in case it's pretty windy up top.

Awesome hike. Probably my favorite to date.

hiking
3 months ago

This might be my new favorite hike ever. St. Helens is gorgeous. It is a gradual incline I would say for the most part. We encountered two mountain goats! Not busy at all. I would definitely do this again!!!

hiking
3 months ago

We've done a few hikes around Mt. St. Helen's before and this had the best views. A bit longer than Lava Canyon, but well worth being right underneath the mountain at the end.

mountain biking
3 months ago

I have hiked and biked this trail many times and it is still one of my all time favorites. There are not many places in the world where you can hike into a recent volcanic blast zone and this one is in my back yard. The views are out of this world.

3 months ago

Honestly one of the best hikes I’ve done in the PNW. Stunning views not too crowded and the trail is in great condition. Would rate this as Moderate and not hard

nature trips
3 months ago

5 miles up, 5 down. It’s a nice smooth trail but lots of incline so be ready to work hard. Bring bug spray and a bug zapper as the mosquitoes are bad. Gorgeous views the higher you go, and at the top you will be blown away by the views. You can even continue onto more trails if you want and feel like you’re actually climbing on to the mountain.

hiking
3 months ago

6 months ago

Must do hike!!!

hiking
11 months ago

Hiked on 10/31/17. Saw a mountain goat.

11 months ago

A great challenge

Sunday, October 15, 2017

So pretty! But the difficulty rate should be moderate, not "hard".

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fun hike, really not difficult except if you aren't used to the distance. Not steep, trail good..more of a moderate imo. The views are awesome!

hiking
Sunday, July 02, 2017

LOTS of mosquitos and flies. It's uphill most of the way but overall a good hike! The views are awesome. Go early if you want parking nearby.

hiking
Friday, June 30, 2017

A new favorite for me! Bring bug spray!

hiking
Monday, November 21, 2016

I made the mistake of going after a snow storm and the the trail was completely covered in downed trees at the top of the first mountain. Pretty cool but save this one for a sunny day. Wonderful views of Mt Adams, Mt St. Helens and the Columbia Gorge range.

hiking
Saturday, November 19, 2016

Incredible. Your knees will ache from the long slow incline, but absolutely worth it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I have hiked this trail many times and it is one of my favorites. Challenging but worth it for the scenery. Last time up there were 5 mountain goats climbing in the Plains of Abraham. Deer flies can be an issue later in the summer though.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

yep bad ass hike you can go all day hiking around on St. Helens you get to see the Old Mud Flows and how much that explosion scarred the land and you get to see the start of the Plains of Abraham so much to do on this hike it's what you make out of it

hiking
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

By far one of the best hikes I've done. We didn't know what to expect, as our original hike through Lava Canyon was closed off. We had perfect weather for the day. Clear skies. Quite a few fallen trees, but that's part of the fun of hiking. Hit a little snow at the viewpoint, but easily crossed. Can't wait to do this hike again.

camping
Tuesday, June 02, 2015

This is a nice trail with really easy (paved) road access which makes this a somewhat popular trail, but nothing like Ape Caves which is passed on the way in. There are a few dispersed camping sites right by the parking lot which is really small, but there may be parking down the road a bit. Lots of bikers on the trail, but they were all really friendly and we typically yielded to them since it is just easier for everyone and the breaks on the almost continuous uphill were welcome. The trail is well graded with few obstacles and the cleanest trail that I have ever been on - not a hint of litter anywhere! We camped in the meadow/trees on a hill above the trail before the final uphill to the Plains of Abraham. We had perfect weather, complete solitude, and enormous views of Helens, Adams, and Hood. There are a few decent sites up on the hill towards the south side that have been cleared of pumice making them really nice. The only negatives were having to pack in all of our water (dry even this early in the season) and no place to hang food (to be expected), we buried it and had no problems with critters. Otherwise, a great area for a one night backpack close to the city.

hiking
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wonderful trail for hiking, walking.. probably for bikes too, but since I'm not a rider - I can't really comment. It is shaded most of the way up to the top and the trail is wide and soft. Steep but not technical. Excellent starting spot for doing the Loowit or just getting up to the Plains of Abraham. Great day hike and good conditioning as it is constantly going up but not too strenuous that it isn't enjoyable. No pain - no gain, huh?

There is NO water on this trail. You might be able to access glacier streams, if they are running, if you continue on the Loowit Trail (east towards Plains of Abraham) about a half mile or so. Lots of bugs - biting flies. They hurt and they leave ugly, itchy welts too!

Bikers were friendly when we passed them. My husband and I were backpacking with our dog and it seemed that sharing the trail was never an issue. We hiked up around 5pm, camped and came back down at 9am the next morning. It took us a little over 2.5 hours to get up and about 2 to get down. Great workout!

hiking
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wow! Couldn't be better. A little bit of everything. Deep forest path up through the canyon punctuated by alternating views of mud flow river bed off St Helens and gorgious Mt Adams. At the top look down over rock left bare by the blast. Cross over to the Plains of Abraham for a view of St Helens you can almost touch. Turn around and there's Adams, Rainier, and off to the south, Hood. In early July we had snow patches side by side with blooming lupine. This is my favorite hike in the area.

hiking
7 hours ago

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