Nothing beats riding along the flank of St. Helens. Glaringly white pumice fields are interrupted by large black boulders. Call it the world’s largest zen rock garden. Getting up to the plain is a grind; think granny gear, but it’s well worth it. Save this ride for a cool day, bring plenty of water, and don’t forget your sunscreen and shades. Total distance, out-and-back, is 23 miles. Given the beauty of the trail, you’re not likely to feel all the miles.
This is, hands down, my favorite ride.
To get there: From Hood River, go across the Columbia River and then head west on SR 14. Just after passing over the Wind River and before you reach Stevenson, head north on forest road 30. Stay on forest road 30 through Carson and over Old Man Pass. A couple of miles after cresting Old Man Pass, turn left on Curly Creek Road and follow this down to forest road 90. Head west on forest road 90 to forest road 83 (the map states go to the town of Cougar, but that’s not correct). Head north on FS 83 11 miles, to its end at the Ape Canyon Trailhead. (2 hours)