Ape Cave Trail

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

Elevation Gain464ft
Trailhead Elevation2,450ft
Elevation Min/Max2087/2450ft
Elevation Start/End2450/2450ft

Ape Cave Trail

Ape Cave Trail is a hiking trail in Skamania County, Washington. It is within Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. It is 1.3 miles long and begins at 2,450 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 2.6 miles with a total elevation gain of 464 feet. The Skylight and Lava Fall viewpoints can be seen along the trail. The trail ends near the Ape Cave Upper Entrance cave entrance.

Ape Cave Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Get a spelunker’s-eye view of the southern Washington Cascades’ volcanic history in the longest continuous lava tube in the United States.

Two tubes, lower and upper, form the cave. The upper cave is more difficult. Except for the skylight three-quarters of the way in, you’ll do it all in the dark."

"Ape Cave, the longest known lava tube cave in North America, offers a challenging scramble through the upper cave and a gentle return via a surface trail to the main entrance. Then you again descend into the cave for an easier out-and-back walk through the lower cave.

There is no natural light in the cave; therefore each person should have at least two good sources of light with him or her. Headlamps are best."

"“Hey Mom! It’s the secret hiding place of a slime mold!” said the delighted little boy as he descended the steps into the cave. Another child said with a gleeful smile, “Now we’re inside the volcano!” Of course she wasn’t, but these are the longest intact lava tubes in the United States, visited by 96,000 visitors each year, and representing volcanic activity of Mount St. Helens perhaps 2000 years before the 1980 eruption.

Children will be disappointed when they hear how the Ape Cave got its name: It was discovered in 1951 by members of a mountaineering club called the Mount St. Helens Apes. No, there are no Bigfoot apes found there."

"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."

Ape Cave Trail Reviews

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
icon4 Total
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
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).
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
It was a fun hike. Some of the lava cliffs were pretty high. Maybe 7-8 feet that we had to scale. Fascinating hike.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
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.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars
We did this trail with our 2 children ages 6 and 13. They had so much fun walking through a cave. My son kept thanking me the entire day for bringing him there. make sure to bring a jacket and gloves for the little ones. My 6 year old was very cold. Average temp in in the low 40's in the cave. Also a lantern is much better than a flashlight. We had knee pads for the kids for the crawl at the end of the cave (which most people were not doing).

Ape Cave Trail Photos

Help others discover amazing sights!

Trail Information

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Nearby City
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
Local Contacts
Green Trails Mt St. Helens 364S
Local Maps