Upper Passage Cave

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

Elevation Gain452ft
Trailhead Elevation2,083ft
Elevation Min/Max2083/2451ft
Elevation Start/End2083/2083ft

Upper Passage Cave

Upper Passage (Cave) is a hiking trail in Skamania County, Washington. It is within Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. It is 1.4 miles long and begins at 2,083 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 2.6 miles with a total elevation gain of 452 feet. The Skylight and Lava Fall viewpoints can be seen along the trail. The trail ends near the Ape Cave Upper Entrance cave entrance. This trail connects with the following: Lower Passage (Cave).

Upper Passage (Cave) Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

A FalconGuide to Mount St. Helens (Falcon Guides)
Fred Barstad
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"The longest known lava tube cave in North America, Ape Cave offers a challenging scramble with a surface return trail along its upper portion, while Lower Ape Cave is an easier out-and-back underground hike. Although other caves were known in the area as early as the 1890s, Ape Cave was not discovered until the mid-twentieth century. The lava along the sides of the streambed as well as a crust over the top cooled enough to solidify, encasing the lava stream inside. Then the remaining liquid lava flowed on out of the tube, leaving the longest lava tube cave known in North America. At some time, possibly about 1480, a sandy lahar flowed into the cave’s main entrance. This lahar filled portions of Lower Ape Cave, blocking it about 4,000 feet below (south of ) the main entrance and leaving the sand and bits of light-colored pumice we see today."

Upper Passage (Cave) Trip Reports

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This is such a cool, interesting place but it is super crowded. There are parts of the trail that get bottlenecked with hikers. The trail leading to the caves is very pretty and lush. The lower cave is an easy, mellow walk but the upper cave presents more of a challenge with an 8 foot rock wall to climb. Head lamps or flashlights are very helpful, cell phone lights really don't cut it.
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A very enjoyable hike.
The upper cave is the best part of the hike. Reccomended for taller hikers to get over the lava fall section.
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An unforgettable experience, especially for anyone who is as interested in the geological history, volcanos, and the awesome power and beauty in nature.

This "trail" I would not consider a hike but more like an exploritory path leading in two directions- one upwards gradually in elevation and the other downwards gradually.

What ever you choose to call it, it is something not many can say that they have seen. There is nothing in anyone's hiking experiences that could possible be compared to it.

One cave is not like another, and Mt. St. Helens lava tube cave is unique.

To get the full and unique personal experience I recommend bringing high output lanterns rather than headlights or flashlights.

The only dissappointment you may encounter is the finding of a beer can. If you should find something like that or a cigarette butt, use your goodness over the low life that put it there and get it out of there.
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The Ape caves is an awsome adventure on a hot summer day. I recomend bringing your own flashlights, and going early. The park rangers who lead tours every 45 minutes through the lower part of the cave are extremely intersting, and knowlegeable. The hike through the upper portion is strenuous, but is much more difficult if attempted from the upper end going towards the information center. Plan to not only visit the caves, but spend time exploring the other smaller lava tubes on your way back down to the trail head. Also give yourself the afternoon to do some of the hikes up the Mountain. The rangers are also knowlegable about these hikes, and can give excelent advice for your skill level, as well maps of the area.

Upper Passage (Cave) Photos

Trail Information

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Nearby City
Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Local Contacts
USGS Mt. Mitchell
Local Maps

Trail Log