The intriguing and mysterious Ape Caves are a must see for the adventurer. A trip through the caverns can be a rugged and challenging experience while viewing the variety of lava formations that lie within the volcanic flow.
The caves are always a constant 42 degrees Fahrenheit and you should take 2 or more light sources that do not include a cell phone. No food, pets, smoking or collecting rocks are allowed. A Northwest Forest pass is required to park during the summer season. You must reserve a timeslot in advance for anytime between 9am and 5pm on recreation.gov.
Ape Cave is the third longest lava tube in North America created from a basaltic eruption over 2,000 years ago. In the early 1950’s a local boy scout troop explored the caves and named them after their sponsor, the Mount Saint Helens Apes. There are two sections of the cave once you approach the large hole in the ground. By following the direction of the metal stairwell you will continue into the lower section of the cave. Near the end of this section you will encounter the famous ‘Meatball’, a large rock wedged in-between the walls of the cave.
Roundtrip, this section is about 1 hour of hiking or 1.5 miles. Behind the last set of stairs is the beginning of the more difficult upper section of the cave. The upper cave involves scrambling over large rocks and an 8 foot lava fall wall that must be traversed. At the end of this section, you will be rewarded with picturesque skylights and a metal ladder that takes you out of the cave. You can then follow the trails above ground back to the entrance. Due to these obstacles, small children, elderly, and disabled persons should not hike through this section.