Words and pictures by Mallory Nowels
You have to be a special kind of person to want to cram 80 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing into one weekend. I am that special kind of person. I’ve got this great ability of forgetting how challenging something was and only remembering how rewarding it was to finish whatever the thing was. Maybe if I write down all the hard parts of this trip I’ll remember and think twice before doing this loop again.
We had two great resources for our Mount St Helens route: Bikepacking.com and the ‘St. Helens Epic’. We split the route into two days. Day one consisted of lots of climbing, forest roads, Ape Canyon Trail, Plains of Abraham, Windy Ridge, and a little over half of the Boundary Trail. Day two was more about descending, but still had a little climbing in it! We hit the Boundary, Craggy Peak, Wright Meadow and Lewis River Trails to finish off day two. All of these trails are a part of the Mount Saint Helens National Monument, which are protected and maintained by the US Forest Service so that people like you and me can go see and experience how the land has responded to the eruption back in 1980.
Everything about this route is EPIC. The views: EPIC, water from the Lewis River: refreshingly EPIC, surfing down pumice rock on the Plains of Abraham: EPIC, and let me tell you the hike-a-bike section on the Boundary Trail was: EPIC!!!!
As long as you had the legs, most things on this route were rideable until we got to the Boundary Trail. We knew ahead of time that the Boundary Trail would be tough, but by mile 4 out of 10, we’d only had to do some light hike-a-biking and were wondering why people were complaining about how hard the hike-a-bike sections were on this trail. Ignorance is bliss, my friend. The last 4 miles of this trail had EPIC hike-a-bikes, worthy of all the complaints I’d read online. This trail has that serious, quality Type II (maybe Type III?) fun.
We camped at Badger Lake – great for water, horrible bugs. If you’re contemplating doing this route, I’d strongly encourage bringing bug spray with all the DEET. as well as pants/tops that bugs can’t bite through.
By the time we hit Craggy Peak Trail on day two, most of the serious hike-a-bike was behind us. We were excited to point the bike down hill and take in the views from Craggy Peak and Wright Meadow trails. Wright Meadow was rutted and rooty, we ripped right down it buzzing our seat bags when we got a little too sendy (oops!). The Lewis River Trail follows along the river climbing up and down and back up again. We stopped at the first chance we got to rinse our legs, refill our bottles and rest for lunch. After the Lewis River Trail, we just had a short gravel climb and then 6 miles of pavement to make it back to the Swift Reservoir.
We hoped in the reservoir, packed up our bags and high tailed it to burgers and shakes as fast as we could! As soon as we rolled up to the car, I thought to myself there’s no way I’m doing that again. I’m happy to report back that two weeks later, I’ve already forgotten about how hard the hike-a-bikes were and my bug bites have healed. I’m ready to go back, brother.