Bucket List of Alpine Hikes in the Pacific Northwest #12: Plains of Abraham

A lunar landscape? A Nevada desert? The home of the elusive Sasquatch? No, it was the Plains of Abraham on the eastern flanks of Mt. St. Helens, a truly unique environment. The 2 1/2 square-mile relatively flat area lies at around 4,000 feet. As the crow flies, it’s only two miles from the summit of the mountain with front-row seat views of the Ape and Velson Glaciers. Volcanic ash, basalt boulders, pumice and lupine cover the landscape. The purple lupine, like red paintbrush and young sub-alpine fir, appear to thrive in the volcanic environment.

On a hot, sunny weekend day, I hiked the 4 1/2 mile Ape Canyon Trail to the Loowit Trail where I headed north. Soon I was on the Plains of Abraham. What an impressive scene. I kept thinking I might see the lunar rover. Much of the area had been devastated by the 1980s eruption, but green grass, new saplings and wildflowers gave evidence to the ability of the land to recreate itself.

After passing a wonderful camping site near a natural springs, I continued to the northern end of the Plains and stopped for a mid-day lunch. Returning slowly across the Plains, I marvelled at the unworldly appearance of the stark scenery.

All in all the hike was 14.5 miles in length with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. On the way back to the trailhead, I passed many fat-tire riders dazzled by the experience. Who wouldn’t be?

Plains of Abraham

Summit of Mt. St. Helens from top of Ape Canyon

Red Paintbrush and purple Lupine along the Loowit Trail

My hiking poles with a hazy Mt. Adams in the distance



Matchstick-like appearance of standing trees killed by the 1980s pyroclastic blast

Active erosion below a glacier with the summit above

A wildflower bouquet of red Paintbrush, purple Lupine and cream-colored Partridge Foot

A cloud of volcanic ash caused by a small avalanche in the mountain’s crater

Categories: Bucket List of Apine Hikes, Washington Cascades HikesTags: , , , , ,


  1. I’d love to be one of those fat tire riders! Beautiful photos. This is a perfect example of nature repairing itself and starting to get back to the way it once was.

  2. Wow! This is just amazing.

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