Explore the Ape Caves

Added by Mitch Pittman

Walking around in lava tubes. The darkest dark you've ever experienced. Many other adventures nearby. Options for many skill levels. Explore in any season.

As if erupting volcanoes weren't awesome enough, ancient lava flows also left behind these giant, hollow tubes as they cooled. Spend all day exploring deep underground in this 2.5 mile cave.

To get there, head to the SOUTH side of Mount Saint Helens. You must pass through the town of Cougar to get here, DON'T go to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Now, let's explore some caves! It's a short walk from the parking lot to the main cave entrance. Take time to read about how the caves were formed, how they were discovered, and why they're called the 'Ape' Caves. I won't ruin it for you, but it's all interesting!

Descend into the lava tubes first down a stone staircase then a metal one. Make sure you have multiple light sources with fresh batteries. It is extremely dark down there and you don't want to run out of light down there.

The cave is divided into the upper and lower portions. The lower is easier, shorter, and must be done as an out-and-back. Follow the tube as it wiggles deeper into the ground, and pass features such as 'The Meatball' and the 'Railroad Tracks.'

The upper cave is more difficult to negotiate, with large rock piles to scramble over and an 8' lava wall to deal with. There is also a skylight and another entrance/exit at the top of the cave, with a path back to the main cave entrance.

This is an exciting adventure that can be paired with others in the southern Mount Saint Helens area, such as the Lava Canyon, Ape Canyon, or a hike up the south side of the mountain.

Read More

Tags

Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

šŸ„‡Top Contributor

3 months ago

Field trip

Did this one on a high school field trip! So so fun!! Highly recommend

Explorer

šŸ„‡Top Contributor

4 months ago

Really cool hike

I never knew you could hike through lava tubs, until now. This hike will take you underground into old lava tubes. Be sure to bring a headlamp, lantern, flashlight, etc and bring extra batteries for all of them. We opted to do this hike backwards and I only recommend it if you're athletic and are comfortable crawling DOWN very steep slippery places. If you hike the tube uphill, it would probably be easier to climb up some of the places inside than climb down them. I don't recommend this hike for anyone who is scared of the dark or claustrophobic.

Explorer

šŸ„‡Top Contributor

over 3 years ago

Pretty cool caves!

The Ape Caves are such a perfect example of lava tubes in the Cascades, and they're pretty family-friendly to explore. We stuck to the shorter of the two having just climbed St. Helens, but it would be neat to take the longer cave and pop out the far exit in the forest somewhere.

Explorer

šŸ„ˆ Contributor

almost 4 years ago

Fun Adventure

Did the easier of the two and had a good time. It's a fun place to do some long exposure photography with your lights. Definitely bring a jacket and good lighting you can depend on.

almost 4 years ago

Rad Tubes

This was a wonderful cave experience to say the least. It's super dark which is amazing for those of us that love that adrenaline rush. The easy lower section was a nice walk, but if you want a real hike I definitely suggest tackling the upper section too. There's quite a bit of scrambling throughout! Major downside is that there's quite a bit of trash in both sections and human feces in the upper, along with some graffiti which takes some of the fun out of it.

Stay Nearby

Skamania County, Washington

Lower Falls Campground

Overview Lower Falls Campground is located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Visitors enjoy several waterfalls in the area and access to the Lewis River Trail. The campground is open from May...

Amboy, Washington

Lis Bon Acres Rn R

Come for relaxation and respite at our hobby farm nestled in the foothills of Amboy, only an hour drive from Portland. Access to boating, kayaking, or swimming at Lake Merwin is 15 minutes away. A ...

From $125/night

Carson, Washington

Paradise Creek Campground

Overview Paradise Creek sits at the confluence of Paradise Creek and the Wind River, nestled under an old-growth forest of cedars, firs, alder and maples. The sites by the river enjoy privacy from...

Carson, Washington

Govt Mineral Springs Guard Sta

Overview Nestled in a grove of towering old-growth conifer trees, the Government Mineral Springs Guard Station is a delightful setting for guests seeking relaxation and recreation in the Gifford Pi...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike/Snowshoe to June Lake, WA

    In the winter you will need to start at Marble Mt. Snowpark and purchase a snow park permit. The hike starts here on the eastern side. Follow the Pine Ski Trail for about 1 mile along NF-83 Road. Then follow the June lake Trailhead up to June lake...

    5.25 miles 1000 ft gain

  • Summit Mount St. Helens via Worm Flows

    The Worm Flow Route, starting at Marble Mountain Sno Park, is the most direct winter route up to the summit. You'll start at around 2,700 feet and begin a steady walk along the trail for 2 miles. Although the trail is fairly well marked well above...

    10.8 miles 5700 ft gain

  • Summit Mount St. Helens via Monitor Ridge

    Monitor Ridge is the "easiest" of the routes one can take in order to claim that they have stood on top the sleeping giant better known as Mount St. Helens. This route is heavily favored over Worm Flows as the starting elevation is not only an ad...

    9.4 miles 4585 ft gain

  • Backpack around Mount Saint Helens via the Loowit trail

    This is a very difficult hike. Camp sites areĀ scarce and access to water is very limited. Overexposure is a concern so be sure to pack a hat and apply sunscreen frequently.Ā There are sketchy sectionsĀ of the trail where you will be forced toĀ naviga...

    31.7 miles 6000 ft gain