Windy Ridge and Plains of Abraham Loop

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Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Windy Ridge and Plains of Abraham Loop is a 12.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Cougar, Washington that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and mountain biking and is best used from June until November.

Distance: 12.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,165 feet Route Type: Out & Back

hiking

mountain biking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

scramble

washed out

no dogs

TEMPORARY ROAD CLOSURE: Forest Road 99 to Windy Ridge remains closed, with an opening date of June 29. Please call park to confirm which roads are currently open or closed as they change often.

hiking
9 months ago

Absolutely gorgeous trail! The views were stunning the whole way through. You can see into the valley, up to Mt St Helens, and to the peaks of Mt Adams and Rainier. Wildflowers were abundant along the rocky ridge and the wind blew hard almost the whole way (bring something to protect your face and ears if you're sensitive to wind burn or ear aches). My favorite part was walking along the ridge of the mountains!

hiking
no shade
9 months ago

mountain biking
10 months ago

Quite possibly my favorite trail. I have hiked and mountain biked it in summer, at night under a full moon, and late November when the normally loose and sandy surface was frozen as hard as pavement. The trail winds up through forest and then dumps you out onto a vast pumice field at the base of the mountain. At times it feels like the surface of Mars. Lots of evidence of the eruption further on and the views are out of this world.

hiking
rocky
scramble
10 months ago

Wildflowers! Well marked trail through pumice laden boulder fields. Trail disappears in dry stream beds due to washout but well placed cairns showed us the way. Went off trail in a steep ravine before Alpine Butte after missing a switchback but scrambled up to find it. Saw some mountain goats. Went clockwise around the loop. Note that the actual distance is less than 9 miles and the elevation is less than 1500 ft. Wildflower meadows are beyond amazing. Snow free. Took less than 5 hours from the Windy Ridge parking lot. Great views of Spirit Lake, the northeast side of the mountain and vast debris fields, and the transition from treeless slopes to unaffected zones. There are only two really steep spots, one at the cable ladders and the other at Alpine Butte. Recommend poles at Alpine Butte as the trail is narrow, steep, and could be slippery in weather, although I managed with a stout pair of boots and no poles. My 15 year old daughter outpaced me on this trail in running shoes. We climbed into weather and the change coming over the crest into wind and driving drizzle at Alpine Butte required adding rain gear.

hiking
Sun Aug 19 2018

8/6/18 Hiked windy ridge to abraham flats (this trail is very narrow for the most part on slippery sand and on a ridge. Watch your footing. The stairs were the scariest part for me going both up and down, they are really steep and slippery...the sand will just fall from under your feet. pretty trail with a lot of interesting bugs I've never seen before and the grass hoppers are super loud here! couple of steep parts when your crossing dry creeks in the hills before you get to the plains.) to loowit trail (I thought I could get to the falls this way instead of having to go back down abraham trail, but it was a no go... the loowit trail is basically non existant when you get to the last lava field at the base of the mountain. I could see trail markers at every lava field except the last one. I attempted what i thought was the trail from the se side and feared I would get hurt, so I scrambled back down. I would not recommend doing the loop. I then backtracked. this trail connects with june lake and ape canyon. Make sure your wearing good gripping hiking boots or shoes. the sand is very slick and this trail can have some really steep parts. Started this hike at 6am and saw no one else on the trail till my descent back down around 10am and they were on the windy ridge trail.

hiking
Sun Aug 05 2018

Assuming you do the trail clockwise be careful as you come back around the west. The trail is almost non existent and incredibly slippery. Lots of wash out - I would stay away actually. Wildflowers right now are awesome. No mosquitos.

mountain biking
Tue May 26 2015

I did this ride years ago and it was the most difficult Mtn. bike ride I had done to that point. The loose volcanic material was really challenging, and some of the sheer cliff faces the trail goes along were a little daunting. We started down by Ape caves and rode up to Windy Ridge and back again. We were the only ones on the mountain that day and it was a gorgeous day and ride.

mountain biking
Mon Jun 06 2011

I rode this twice. Once from Windy ridge (Rough route with stairs and steeps) and once from Ape Canyon (switch back climbings). both times it was beautiful. the Pumice stone can get thick in small patches making it like riding in thick gravel. it also puts off some glare so bring sunscreen & shades. The trail it sometimes hard to see but look ahead for the stacked stone markers. the views are awesome and you can see Mt Hood and Rainer. It interesting to see how things are coming back after the Blast. Wild flowers lined the trail. it on my list of Favorites.

hiking
Mon Aug 30 2010

This review is for a 9 mile loop hike starting from Windy Ridge down onto the trails in the area known as the Plains of Abraham at the base of Mt. St. Helen's. We arrived early and parked in the parking lot above Spirit Lake. There's a road opposite the stairs to the viewpoint that's closed to vehicles. This road is a 2 and a 1/4 mile hike that will take you to Windy Ridge and the sand ladders. You'll know when you get to Windy Ridge because you'll see a trail along a ridgeline and the sand ladders leading up to the ridge. The sand ladders are a bit difficult to get up but better to use the sand ladders than not because the pumice makes for a slippery climb. I've posted pictures of the ridge and the sand ladders. They look very steep in the pictures and they are actually that steep but once you get to the top, the trail gently slopes and is an easy hike down toward the hills leading to the Plains of Abraham. I don't know if it's only late summer but there are swarms of small grasshoppers along the trail. They basically just jump around back and forth across the trail without being too much of a bother but be aware there are areas where they are abundant! You may also see elk tracks on the trail as we did and if you're lucky you'll see some elk, too. There are a lot in the area. Once you come out of the low lying hills you'll find yourself on the Plains. From here the trails weave around the rocky landscape and remain pretty level. Much of your initial elevation gain is at Windy Ridge. There are cairn along the trail to mark the trail since it can be difficult to follow in some areas especially as you approach Mt. St. Helen's. I personally recommend taking a break at the crossroads of trails where the sign posts are so you can truly enjoy the site of the volcano. She is an amazing sight. At the crossroads you'll take the trail that goes onward toward Mt. St. Helen's. As you get closer you'll approach a valley. This is where the trail gets a little iffy as the trail dips in and out of the rivelets created by lava flow but you should be able to see the cairn with pink ribbons tied to them along the way until you get to the hill. Once you've reached the hill you're going to make your way up to the top via a couple of steep switchbacks. Be careful of slipping on the pumice, it's very slippery under the feet. Once you reach the sign posts at the top you're going to make your way down the hill. Again, the trail is very rocky, narrow and washed out in parts so you'll need to make your way down mountain-goat style. Be careful when grabbing onto the rocky hillside. Many of the rocks are loose and will break away. I would -not- take a child on this hike. The drop down into the canyon is steep and with all the loose rock it's a bit of a challenge. Still, this part of the hike was a lot of fun because of the challenge. At the bottom the trail will continue with gentle sloping until it finally comes out at a little parking lot where only researchers are allowed to park. You will have to hike up the gravel road and back to the road you hiked on to get to Windy Ridge. I strongly recommend doing this hike on an overcast day because there is no shade at all along the trails. The wind was also very chilly, it was 45 degrees up there, so dress in layers. Once you have shelter from the wind you'll probably want to shed a layer or two. Take plenty of water. My husband and I shared a 3.5 liter hydration pack between the two of us which was fine but we also kept another gallon of water back at the car. The harsh winds gave us a bit of windburn and the ash gets around so avoid wearing shorts or wear gaitors or long pants. The ash will irritate sensitive skin. This hike is definitely worthwhile if you come prepared!

hiking
9 months ago

hiking
10 months ago

recorded Recording - Jul 13, 03:58 PM

hiking
10 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

hiking
Tue Aug 14 2018

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Wed Aug 08 2018

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Sat Oct 14 2017

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Thu Sep 14 2017

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Fri Sep 20 2013