Quite simply, add this ride to your bucket list. The views are amazing and the riding is incredible. I rode this as an out-and-back, but you can also ride it as a big 26 mile loop connecting it to Windy Ridge. Either route is amazing and worth your time. This is a tough ride for beginners, but intermediate riders should be fine. It’s a bit out of the way (I’ll pop back with mapping or send me a message and I’ll hook you up), but well worth it.
I suggest doing this ride on on a weekday as it’s a popular destination, I encountered 15-20 people on a Friday morning/ afternoon in the off season and it’s certain to get busier during the summer and on weekends.
Ape Canyon trail climbs up through a beautiful, lush forest only feet away from the blasted run-off field which is still recovering. The climb feels like a typical west coast forest trail except for the occasional glimpses of prior destruction. It’s only when you reach the top that you really appreciate the unique nature of this ride.
As with many of the rides along the Columbia River Gorge, views are spectacular near the top. Mt. Adams is seen here off in the distance over the Clear Valley.
This is the end of Ape Canyon trail and marks the beginning of the Plains of Abraham. The “Plains” are much more barren and feel more like a moonscape then a typical mountain bike ride. The trail flattens out a lot and the character of the trails is alien. Sharp broken up volcanic rocks and gravel and vegetation where it is is stunted.
The trail continues well past the Plains of Abraham where you get to see some spectacular views of the blasted western slope of Mount St. Helens. This is the side of the mountain that exploded and basically turned into a semi-gelatinous blob of liquid earth.
You can continue beyond this point, eventually the trail becomes Windy Ridge trail and you take a separate Canyon downhill and back to the car. I was short on time and pretty tired so I returned across the Plains of Abraham and down Ape Canyon which is itself a pretty amazing downhill. This is a ride, or the full Windy Ridge Loop belongs on everyone’s bucket list, it has the perfect combination of uniqueness, challenge, and spectacular scenery that makes it one of my all-time-favorites.