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Ape Caves

Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, Washington

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Ape Caves

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  • Informational kiosk at the mouth of the cave.- Ape Caves
  • Entering the Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • A subterrainian view of the mouth of Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • Stairway descending to upper and lower Ape Cave options.- Ape Caves
  • Stairway descending to upper and lower Ape Cave options.- Ape Caves
  • Exploring the Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • Exploring the Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • Exploring the Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • The "meatball" formed by falling lava.- Ape Caves
  • Exploring the Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • Water reflections from flashlights in the cave.- Ape Caves
  • An ice formation illustrates a stalagmite in process.- Ape Caves
  • Headlamp exploration in Ape Caves.- Ape Caves
  • Light at the end of the tunnel in the Ape Caves.- Ape Caves
  • Light trails in the Ape Caves.- Ape Caves
  • The above-ground trail return from the upper route in Ape Cave.- Ape Caves
  • Bear grass along the return trail.- Ape Caves
  • Bear grass along the return trail.- Ape Caves
  • Bear grass and lava formations along the return trail.- Ape Caves
  • A close-up of the moss and lichen-covered lava.- Ape Caves
  • Trails running through the lava field.- Ape Caves
  • Broad-leaved penstemon (Penstemon ovatus)- Ape Caves
  • Cooled lava along the return trail.- Ape Caves
  • Cooled lava along the return trail.- Ape Caves
  • Maidenhair fern (Adiantum)- Ape Caves
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Longest lava tube in North America. Consistent climate in the caves.
Cons: 
Variable winter access. Visibility and temperature not optimal for all ages.
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Region:
Southwest Washington/Mount St. Helens, WA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
200.00 ft (60.96 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,275.00 ft (693.42 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

With a total length of more than 2 miles, Ape Cave is the longest lava tube in the continental United States.  Located on the south side of Mount St. Helens, the site offers routes through both the upper and lower tubes of Ape Cave.  Both tubes remain a constant 42 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.

You will find an ample amount of informational and educational signs at the trailhead, at the mouth of the cave, and along the forest trail, all of which directs you to the cave of your choosing and back to your car. The easier of the two choices, the lower tube, is less than a mile long and can be hiked down and back in approximately one hour. The upper Ape Cave is 1 1/2 miles long and will take more than two hours to complete, which includes returning to the parking lot via an above-ground trail. The upper tube is clearly a more adventurous route, as this section of the cave requires scrambles over a number of boulder piles and ducking through some tight passages.

Ape Cave is open year-round, although winter access may require a hike in with snowshoes. No matter what the weather conditions are outside, the caves will always be a damp-and-dark 42 degrees, so be sure to bring warm clothing as well as a headlamp and/or flashlight with backup batteries.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(6 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(52 within a 30 mile radius)

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