Return to the Plains of Abraham

A Nevada desert? The home of the elusive Sasquatch? A lunar landscape? 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 hardy wildflowers cover the landscape. The purple penstemon, purple/blue lupine, red paintbrush and young sub-alpine fir 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 1980 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 marveled 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.

Mt. St. Helens from near the trailhead

Mountain Spiraea

The Plains of Abraham

Mt. Rainier in distance in the early morning  light


Top of Mt. St. Helens

Sitka Mountain Ask in bloom in the blast zone – – – amazing!

Purple Penstemon & red Paintbrush were ubiquitous in the blast zone (logs are relics of the 1980 eruption)

Harsh Paintbrush

Near top of the Ape Canyon Trail (Mt. Adams in background)

Hanging glacier

Upper end of Ape Canyon Trail



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

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