Explore the Ape Caves

    3.9

    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
    Photography
    Hiking
    Bathrooms
    Easy Parking
    Family Friendly

    Go Pro.

    We're committed to building a better, more inclusive home for the modern outdoors. Go PRO to support our mission and get benefits like gear deals, no ads, and more!

    Learn More

    Reviews

    Rate this Adventure

    šŸ„‡Top Contributor

    6 months ago

    Field trip

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

    Explorer

    šŸ„‡Top Contributor

    7 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

    about 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.

    about 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.

    Leave No Trace

    Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

    Stay Nearby

    Skamania County, Washington

    Lower Falls Campground

    Amboy, Washington

    Lis Bon Acres Rn R

    From $125/night

    Carson, Washington

    Paradise Creek Campground

    Carson, Washington

    Govt Mineral Springs Guard Sta

    Nearby Adventures

    Hike/Snowshoe to June Lake, WA

    5.0
    5.25 mi / 1000 ft gain

    Summit Mount St. Helens via Worm Flows

    4.9
    10.8 mi / 5700 ft gain

    Summit Mount St. Helens via Monitor Ridge

    4.3
    9.4 mi / 4585 ft gain

    Backpack around Mount Saint Helens via the Loowit trail

    4.0
    31.7 mi / 6000 ft gain
    More Nearby Adventures