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Let's Get Out There: Hiking the Ape Canyon Trail on Mount St. Helens

The Ape Canyon Trailhead sits at the southeast foot of Mount St. Helens. It leads to the Loowit Trail, which circumnavigates the infamous volcano.

COUGAR, Wash — In this week's Let's Get Out There, Jon Goodwin shares one of his adventures from last summer along the Ape Canyon Trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest:

One of my happy places is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, or anywhere around Mt. St. Helens really. Last August, I had seen some awesome photos of Loowit Falls, a waterfall at the base of the volcano's crater. You can reach it by trail, but to do it in one day is ambitious.

Pass through the small town of Cougar heading east and after a few miles turn left on Forest Road 83. Eventually it dead ends at somewhat of a fork with the Lava Canyon Trailhead on one side and Ape Canyon Trailhead on the other.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

The Ape Canyon Trail is about five miles long through the trees along old rivers of rock and debris where lahars flowed during the 1980 eruption. Eventually it will get you to the Loowit Trail Loop, which circumnavigates Mt. St. Helens. It's several more miles and a couple more trail junctions to Loowit Falls. To be honest, my 1 p.m. start was way too late to make it all the way to the mountain's north side where you find the falls.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

Many people backpack the Loowit Trail. A single-day trip is doable, but like I said, ambitious. The landscape changes drastically once you hit the end of the Ape Canyon Trail. From forest to moonscape, really. The features are volcanic and impressive. Watch your step on the first bit of the Loowit Trail — there are some steep spots which require your full attention.

If I had to guess, I stopped short of the falls by about four or five miles, so I wasn't even close. There was plenty to enjoy and seeing only a handful of people on the trail typically makes for quite the amazing experience. I'll be back next summer to try again, no doubt.

Credit: Jon Goodwin

If you've made it to Loowit Falls, I'd love to see your pictures or videos. Share them with me on my Facebook or Twitter pages! I'm always looking for inspiration for my next outing, and I hope whether you are a novice or expert when it comes to the outdoors, I hope you do the same.

Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

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