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  1. #1
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    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?

    Just wondering if there are enough people out there to make riding Mt. St. Helens solo safe?

    I am visiting my grandma up near Chehalis next week for 2 weeks and am taking my bike. I have ALWAYS wanted to ride Mt. St. Helens ever since I started riding and being so close I canít pass up the opportunity.

    I plan on riding either on a Saturday or a Sunday. I understand there might be a lot of hikers which although would hinder flow, might be better for me in terms of safety. I am sure I am going to be taking a million pictures anyway so as long as I am not stopping constantly for hikers I might actually prefer to go on a day that there are a lot out.

    I am leaning to ride the Plains of Abraham via Ape which as an out-and-back I can always just turn around and head back if I am tired or not feeling it. I also found this: Mt St Helen's Plains of Abraham Mountain Bike Ride and it might be an option to start Windy Ridge Parking Lot if that is easier. I am pretty open to any route, I donít mind climbing a lot as long as I can take my time (I am a pretty solid rider, just not very fast).

    What do you think? Is it a bad idea to go solo? I am totally comfortable riding solo here in SoCal but there are so many people, no trails are actually remote. Which day would be better to ride- Saturday or Sunday? Any routes preferable to others keeping in mind that I will be solo?

    Thanks so much for your help!
    Tara

  2. #2
    Last word is all yours...
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    I think most people who ride it would feel comfortable doing it solo. On a weekend there will be plenty of people on the trail. But there is no cell service, so bring plenty of water and tools you'd need to fix your bike, because even Dave Matthews isn't getting a ride back to the TH for a mechanical.

    As for the routes, I've done Ape Canyon to Windy Ridge as an OAB, and also a full CW loop using Windy Ridge to Smith Creek to Ape Canyon back to Windy Ridge. It depends on how many miles you want to ride and which direction you're coming from. You can't get lost on Ape Canyon, but navigating some parts of Smith Creek are a little more challenging.

    Read more details here: Trail:Ape Canyon - Evergreen Trail Guide

    And... bring your camera, for sure, because it's a life-changing ride, and the wild flowers are poppin big time now. Have fun and report back!
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  3. #3
    Slothful dirt hippie
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    I'd do Plains of Abe OAB solo in a heartbeat... there's only one kinda narrow slot that's sketchy but brief, other than that straightforward delicious traily-Oes.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  4. #4
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    Great! Thanks for the reassurance. I am SO excited to finally be riding it. Last time I visited by foot about 5 years ago I was imagining being on my bike the entire time (I was just starting to mtb back then). Yay!

  5. #5
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    I'd recommend an out and back to Windy Ridge. When I did it we rode to the top of the stairs, ate lunch, then turned around and headed back. It is a mind-blowing setting, area, & ride. Just take your time heading up Ape Canyon - there's no reason to rush.

  6. #6
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    and don't take your time on the way down. one of the finest flowy trails there is.
    breezy shade

  7. #7
    I should be out riding
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    What the others said. I'd have no qualms about riding there solo. It's worth going past the stairs to the visitor center if it's your first time there. Be careful in the narrow spot where at the top of ape canyon, and mindful of hikers on the return descent. Doing the full Smith Creek loop is epic and really scenic. Everyone. Ape Canyon/Plains as an OAB is generally more enjoyable IMO.

  8. #8
    That Waters Guy
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    I'd do it solo too, but if you're free weekend after next, you should know about HelensFest:

    Helens Fest - Evergreen Trail Guide
    Rolland

  9. #9
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    As others have said, this is a fine solo ride. I'd start at the Ape Canyon TH and not Windy Ridge.

    I've had a couple experiences crossing the Plains of Abe in the AM when most of the stream crossing are dry, but on the return they are flowing. Nothing to worry about, but it's kind of cool.

    When returning from Windy Ridge in the afternoon, it seems like there is usually a slight tailwind on the Plains of Abe. The plains are slightly downhill from Windy Ridge and you can really fly on the return, and with the tailwind, everything gets kind of silent. I love that feeling.

    IMO, the Ape Canyon Trail is a super fun climb. If you donít like to climb, the flies will keep you moving. On the way down, youíre sure to get a few scowls from the hikers.
    I only ride bikes to fill the time when I'm not skiing.

  10. #10
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    Solo is great! Unless you are doing Smith Creek I would not go down the stairs. I love riding that section, but the return on foot sucks. Thanks for the Helens Fest warning!!! Smith will be trashed after that. I guess I will ride it again this Sunday. You will want to start at Ape Canyon. The descent can be a bit of a drag due to the hikers... heads up. If you want a guide for Smith Creek this Sunday send me a PM. I prefer to start at the snow park about 5 mile before the Ape Canyon TH.
    Master of Laundry...Lord of Cleaning!

  11. #11
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    I have ridden it solo a few times and as long as you have the emergency essentials and a map you will be good to go! Incredible & mind blowing views! Bring all the water you can!

  12. #12
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    Re: Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?

    Out and back on the plains of Abe super highway piece of cake. If you start from south turnaround before the stairs as others suggested. I could do ape canyon to stairs and back with a large water bottle so 2/3 a camelback should be fine but take what you think you need.

    We met a young man riding home from his job at the store in the double wide just north of windy ridge so it was his commute!

    Best soloist I met out there from Portland drops off a trashcan of food and camp supplies about lewis river on his way to Norway pass. Then day one pedals 50 to his trashcan about lewis river and day 2 back to the car.

  13. #13
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    Yikes, that was mean spirited

    Quote Originally Posted by poppa#1 View Post
    ...Thanks for the Helens Fest warning!!! Smith will be trashed after that.
    What a nasty thing to say! Helens Fest includes a day of trail work, all participants give back to the trail.

    Personally, I've already spent two days of trail work on Smith in preparation for the event, and I could name 4 others (Jerry D, Shannon, David A, David L) who have spent a day to clear the trails, specifically in the Smith area.
    Last edited by kenobonn; 07-17-2013 at 09:56 PM. Reason: Tone it down.....

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by kenobonn View Post
    What a nasty thing to say! Helens Fest includes a day of trail work, all participants give back to the trail.

    Personally, I've already spent two days of trail work on Smith in preparation for the event, and I could name 4 others (Jerry D, Shannon, David A, David L) who have spent a day to clear the trails, specifically in the Smith area.
    Jerry is a flat out hero and warrior in my book! My comment is simply a fact in regards to "a lot" of riders on very loose soil. Every year the Smith descent is extremely tracked up due to the amount of folks dragging brakes down the pumice. If your feelings are hurt that is such a waste of time. I am always glad when I get a ride or two on Smith before Helens Fest. I feel exactly the same way about Mountain Bike Oregon. I rode Alpine last week and I will gaurantee that the trail will be considerably "used" after this weekends MBO. I appreciate the trail work that anyone does, but I don't have to get all lovey dovey about events that cannot possibly leave the trails in "better" shape. I WANT TO BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT JERRY BEING A HERO AND WARRIOR! Thanks for Huffman! Jerry, dinner on me anytime.
    Master of Laundry...Lord of Cleaning!

  15. #15
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    Re: Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?

    Well at least can agree Jerry D as Sawyer of record for two decades who doesn't need to splash his opinions here is worthy of high praise and emulation.

    Back to the topic: enjoy your solo ride!

  16. #16
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    I did Windy Ridge --> Ape Canyon a few a few years back solo and had a good time. I did see a few other parties on the way so you'll be OK.

  17. #17
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    I also did Ape/Abe/Smith Creek loop this weekend. It was AWESOME, what a spectacular and wonderful ride!

    I have a question for those more experienced in the area: What are the trails to the south of Plains of Abe like? Looking at the map linked below, I'm wondering about the 216 and 238 trails. Are they anywhere near as scenic as Plains of Abe? How's the riding? Could you make a more epic out-and-back starting from Red Rock Pass and doing 238>216>Abe>Windy Ridge?

    http://www.mountsthelens.com/images/...nument-map.jpg
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-usda-monument-map.jpg  


  18. #18
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    any flowers out on the Plains?
    breezy shade

  19. #19
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    Yes!

    Quote Originally Posted by nhodge View Post
    any flowers out on the Plains?
    There were a BUNCH of these purple flowers out. It was absolutely gorgeous.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1839.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1867.jpg


    The most brilliant flowers that I saw were right after the Plains climbing that really skinny trail up to the ridge. SO GORGEOUS!
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1890.jpg
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1844.jpg  


  20. #20
    That Waters Guy
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    Quote Originally Posted by taranehneh View Post
    There were a BUNCH of these purple flowers out. It was absolutely gorgeous.
    Nice photos! The purple flowers are lupines; the ones at St. Helens are really nice, aren't they?
    Rolland

  21. #21
    Slothful dirt hippie
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    The lupines are nitrogen fixers, so besides being beautiful in their own right are actually improving the soil simply by growing there. Their abundance has been a big part of the story of post-eruption recovery.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  22. #22
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    I have a question for those more experienced in the area: What are the trails to the south of Plains of Abe like? Looking at the map linked below, I'm wondering about the 216 and 238 trails. Are they anywhere near as scenic as Plains of Abe? How's the riding? Could you make a more epic out-and-back starting from Red Rock Pass and doing 238>216>Abe>Windy Ridge?
    You can ride up from Red Rock (forget the name of that trail) up to the Lillowett (the trail that circumnavigates the mountain) and it is a very very nice climb, but fairly short. Then the Lillowett trail is great and very scenic but every 500ft-2500 ft you will run into giant washouts that force you to lower your bike down by hand and crawl in and out of. It would be a very good adventure ride. I would recommend parking your car at the road junction or Marble Mt. snow park and riding to Ape Canyon, going up there, and then coming back on the Lillloooweet and dropping down to REd Rock (If you don't mind all the climbing through the washouts). You could do it the opposite way but Ape Canyon is a crowded trail and coming down the Red Rock trail is unpopulated and much techier. Also I believe the general trend from the top of Ape will be down as you traverse the mountain.

    Other than that and Smith Creek or Lewis River, your best Helen's choices are North near Windy Ridge on Goat Mt or Strawberry Ridge or Boundary Trail.

  23. #23
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    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo RR (Photo Heavy!)

    Hey thanks everyone for responding and encouraging me to get on out there! I gave my grandma a little break as I headed off to the volcano on Sunday. I wish I could have joined in the fun of Mt. St. Helens Fest but I just don't have much time left with her to spare 3 whole days.

    Headed out from Chehalis early Sunday morning and tried not to crash as I couldn't help but gawk at the Lewis River to my right!

    I headed up the trail around 0930 and probably went the slowest 2 miles of my life. We just don't have trails THAT green down in SoCal!

    I also had A LOT of fun with my Gorillapod and self-timer (HAHA!)
    gif maker at gickr.com
    make a gif at gickr.com

    After emerging from the trees and Mt. St. Helens started peaking through, I couldn't help but keep exclaiming to myself how amazing this was!
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1649.jpg

    Then the first view point with both the volcano and Mt. Adams just took my breathe away.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1741.jpg

    There were a TON of mtbers out which was really neat. I stayed for over an hour there because I wanted a chance to just take in all that majestic beauty in solitude.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1723.jpg

    After a bit of trepidation I continued up the side of the volcano on the pumice and scree and SO HAPPY I did, the trail was a lot wider than it looked from the vantage point.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1778.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1816.jpg

    And then the VIEWS, oh the VIEWS once the Plains of Abraham began...
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1846.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1858.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1855.jpg

    Traversing the Plains was definitely my favorite part of the ride. I have never been on a trail that feels flat (or down) BOTH ways (I've been on plenty that have felt UPHILL both ways... LOL!). The Lupine (thanks SagebrushSlug) made it seem like I was riding through a sea of purple.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1865.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1879.jpg

    I loved the little rocks here and there, esp in the drainages to add in just a tiny bit of tech.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1859.jpg

    I reached the intersection of Ape Canyon Trail and Lowitt Trail (4 miles to Windy Ridge) and was contemplating whether to go on or not since the predetermined time was approaching to turn-around.
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1936.jpg

    Luckily, a couple of mtbers passed by and said it was definitely worth keeping on despite the pushing that may be involved since you get a different view of the volcano and a peak at Spirit Lake. It was a fun little descent until the pushing began. I even pushed some of the slight downhill sections as the skinny trail ascended to the ridge. Being solo and a fear of heights/exposure don't mix (ha!)! I walked probably a lot more than I should have. But on the bright side, it allowed for more time to enjoy the flowers and the view!
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1887.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1919.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1907.jpg

    With so much HABing, time was really getting on and I asked a few backpackers if it was worth going on. They assured me in a few hundred feet I would see the back of the volcano and there it was! So cool!
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1918.jpg

    I could see a really fun looking descent along the ridge that would have probably taken me to the stairs but 1) it was getting really late and I didn't want to worry my grandma and 2) the exposure was getting to me!
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1908.jpg

    I knew even if I was so close to my destination, it was wise to turn around. It saved something for next time ;-) and I could really enjoy my ride back to the car without a nagging time pressure (ie time for even more pics! hehe).
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1951.jpg

    As OldHouseMan said, it was really neat to see the increase in water level in the drainages. After all the climbing in the trees again, it was a rip-roaring FUN descent!!!
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1965.jpg
    Riding Mt. St. Helens Solo?-img_1972.jpg

    This ride was one of the most amazing riding experiences I have ever had. It was simply MAJESTIC (the term "magical" is still reserved for riding in Sedona, but *gasp* this experience even surpassed ANY of that riding)

    I am so glad that I had the opportunity to do this solo. There was no pressure to get anywhere, no pressure to not stop whenever I wanted to snap a photo, and it added an entirely different level of "awesome" riding through the different terrains in solitude. I have to be honest, there were times that it was a little eerie and nerve-wracking being solo but I wouldn't have it any other way!

    Thanks for all of your input =)

    -Tara
    Last edited by taranehneh; 08-09-2013 at 05:25 PM. Reason: wtf happened to all my photos?!?!?!?

  24. #24
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    Way to go! Very nice report & pics.

  25. #25
    That Waters Guy
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    That place is really nice and your pictures do bring it out. Glad you made it up, and thanks again for all the photos!
    Rolland

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