St. Helens Trail Report

(L-R) Brian, Eric and Al
(L-R) Brian, Eric and Al

Brian Mahon, Eric Loney, Al Hansen, Jeff Muldoon, Dara Muldoon, Paul Norris, and I headed out to do some recon on the south and west sides of St. Helens on July 3.

I’ve been trying to deny it, but the upper half of the Ape Canyon Trail needs to be brushed out. Right now, we are still planning to move forward with our big work party on Sunday, July 26th. Meet at the trailhead at 8:00 a.m. Bring loppers, rake or nippers.  This is a great opportunity to lend a hand and also to get out on the side of the volcano.

We expect the usual strong Growlers Gulch showing for this work party. We currently have 12 people signed up and need to get that number to 15+. Let me know if you can make it.

There will be no pressure to maintain a pace. Brian Mahon and Paul Norris are both bringing weedeaters. Everyone else can bring loppers. The crew will move slowly towards the top with plenty of stops along the way. The goals are to clean the trail and to make sure everyone reaches the Ape Canyon viewpoint for photo opps and bragging rights.

Plains of Abraham
Plains of Abraham

Dave Anderson’s group has done a great job on the two washouts heading out toward the Plains of Abraham. In fact, Al cleaned the second one – although Al is not normal.

After we got out onto the Plains and took a few photos, we headed down to Red Rock Pass off the 81 Road. There has been a huge amount of damage to the road going to Blue Lake and the 81 is very sketchy as well.

We rode from Red Rock to the junction with the Butte Camp Trail, and then headed over to the big washout just prior to reaching Blue Lake. It isn’t impassable, but you could get skinned up really good if you tried to get your bike across it.

The topography in those few miles is remarkable and includes a lava field, plenty of rocky terrain, and old growth.

Dara riding through bear grass at Red Rock
Dara riding through bear grass at Red Rock

The trail had some debris but was rideable, and the bear grass was phenomenal near Red Rock.

There has been talk of working to re-open this area. The section we hit is certainly do-able as an out-and-back right now. Any chance for loops to Blue Lake and then up the Sheep Canyon and down Butte Camp remain iffy. More recon is needed. I know there is a washout on the Loowit Trail between Sheep Canyon and Butte Camp that would leave you shaking your head.

The trails on the west side of St. Helens don’t get nearly as much publicity or TLC as those on the south and east sides. In a perfect world, the west side will eventually be improved so that we can all get over there.

I will keep you in the loop.

WARNING: The bugs were bad at Ape and Red Rock. I recommend heavy coating before you leave the trailhead. And don’t leave the bug dope in your car. Put it in your pack.

4 thoughts on “St. Helens Trail Report”

  1. Thanks for the recon…why didn’t you ride down over to the Ptarmigan and on over the ski trails to Red Rock? It’s a true adventure.

  2. Glad you enjoyed our handy work up on the Plains. I was on the Toutle and Butte Camp trails on the 2nd. see my tire tracks?! The Bear Grass is phenomenal this year right now. Also went up to the Loowit Trail. I love that area of the mountain. The first washout on the Loowit is a dangerous crossing, and I can only imagine what the 2nd larger one is like. On the 3rd, three of us rode the Boundary Trail as an out/back from Elk Pass to Ghost Lake. A great adventure. We had a blast! But on hot days make sure riders have plenty of water in the blast zone. Heat stroke on the climb back up in the blast zone is a real possibility on hot sunny days. Today 15 of us rode Ape Canyon, and had a good time.

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