Ape Caves Trail

Cougar, Washington

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3 Reviews
5 out of 5
The primates that gave their name to two lava tubes found along this trail weren’t monkeys—they were members of a 1950s outdoor club who found and explored the tubes. They called themselves the Mount St. Helens Apes, and the lava tubes became known as their caves. The tubes are long tunnels in the thick lava beds; they run roughly parallel to the surface of the land. Interpretive signs line both the trail through the forest and the tubes’ mouths. The lower tube is the easiest (but still requires a certain amount of care) and the upper tube is larger. It is not possible to hike in the caves the entire length between the two entrances. Descending into the tubes requires a jacket—it’s a constant, cool 42 degrees under the earth, regardless of what happens on the surface—and a powerful flashlight or lantern. The tube beds are rough and uneven. Note: Powerful flashlights with well-charged batteries or a strong lantern are required for walking in the caves. Do not try to explore these spots without a good light.
Day Hiking: South Cascades

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Day Hiking: South Cascades

by Dan A. Nelson (The Mountaineers Books)

The primates that gave their name to two lava tubes found along this trail weren’t monkeys—they were members of a 1950s outdoor club who found and explored the tubes. They called themselves the Mount St. Helens Apes, and the lava tubes became known as their caves. The tubes are long tunnels in the thick lava beds; they run roughly parallel to the surface of the land. Interpretive signs line both the trail through the forest and the tubes’ mouths.

The lower tube is the easiest (but still requires a certain amount of care) and the upper tube is larger. It is not possible to hike in the caves the entire length between the two entrances. Descending into the tubes requires a jacket—it’s a constant, cool 42 degrees under the earth, regardless of what happens on the surface—and a powerful flashlight or lantern. The tube beds are rough and uneven. Note: Powerful flashlights with well-charged batteries or a strong lantern are required for walking in the caves. Do not try to explore these spots without a good light.

© 2007 Dan A. Nelson /The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Cougar
Distance: 2.6
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Easy
Season: Late May-November
Trailhead Elevation: 2,275 feet
Top Elevation: 2,475 feet
Local Contacts: USFS Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Local Maps: Green Trails No. 364 Mount St. Helens
Driving Directions: Directions to Ape Caves Trail

Recent Trail Reviews

6/26/2011
0

Perhaps the most amazing natural wonder in Washington State. A must see. Be sure to bring warrm clothes (the caves are cold and a bit soggy), headlamps, and good shoes (particularly if you plan to hike through the upper cave).


8/30/2009
0

It was a fun hike. Some of the lava cliffs were pretty high. Maybe 7-8 feet that we had to scale. Fascinating hike.


7/31/2008
0

These caves are awesome! I felt like a big kid climbing around and exploring these caves. The lower cave has a pretty flat and smooth floor, it is an easy hike, you can take the kids. The upper cave however is fully of rock scrambles , loose rock floors and even a climb up an 8 foot lava fall. I would not advise taking children. For both caves I used a bright L.E.D. head lamp, it is the only way to go, especially in the upper cave where being hands free is at times required.



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