Discovering Ape Cave: North America’s Longest Lava Tube Invites Adventurers—Not for the Weak-hearted


Undoubtedly! Let’s explore the fascinating world of Washington’s Ape Cave, a lava tube that attracts the brave and curious. This subterranean wonder, carved by volcanic forces over 2,000 years ago, spans two miles and is one of North America’s longest lava tubes.

Ape Cave is named after the local Boy Scout troop, the St. Helens Apes, who discovered it first. It is divided into two sections: the Lower Cave, which is family-friendly, and the Upper Cave.

Whether you’re scaling lava falls or navigating dark tunnels, this creepy, silent world will provide an amazing experience. So take your torch and venture into the depths—this is not for the faint of heart!

Ape Cave Provides a Glimpse into a Subterranean World

Over 2,000 years ago, volcanic processes shaped the famous lava tube! If you’re wondering, the cave’s fascinating name is not derived from any primate-related incidents. The St. Helens Apes, a local Boy Scout troop, was the first to properly explore the tube in the 1950s.

Since then, Ape Cave has drawn adventurous individuals willing to explore its frigid and dark tunnels. The Ape Cave is more than two kilometers long and separated into two sections. Depending on your preferences, each part provides a varying level of difficulty and adventure. The Lower Cave, which is about three-quarters of a mile from the main entrance, offers a more family-friendly walk. This segment is quite simple and ends at a barrier, after which the cave ceiling drops lower, making progress more difficult.

However, if you want a more intense experience, the Upper Cave is the best option. The 1.5-mile trip is not for the faint of heart. It involves climbing over boulder heaps and scaling an 8-foot lava fall, which may be fairly difficult.

The entire journey through the Upper Cave is physically hard, requiring good fitness, adequate attire, and solid boots. However, when you emerge from the other end of the tube, you will feel enormously proud of yourself.

What Distinguishes Ape Cave from Other Caves is its Volcanic Origin

Mount St. Helens erupted around 2,000 years ago, releasing a river of molten lava that cooled on the surface. This resulted in a crust beneath which liquid lava continued to flow. The lava eventually drained away, leaving behind a tunnel that stretched for over two miles.

The interior of the cave is an eerie, silent place shrouded in darkness. Fortunately for travelers, the location maintains cool temperatures throughout the year.

What You Need to Know Before You Go:

The absence of light and sound within the cave can be a dramatic experience, but visitors must bring headlamps or flashlights and thick clothing.

  • Visiting Ape Cave can be a wonderful adventure, but you must be prepared. The United States Forest Service oversees the site and has created many criteria to assure visitor safety and cave maintenance. To keep animals and vermin out, food is not allowed inside the cave.
  • To protect the delicate structures within the cave, all visitors are encouraged not to touch the walls. Remember, this is a natural wonder that we must conserve!
  • Ape Cave requires timed bookings. The open season runs from May 18 to October 31.
  • From Woodland, WA, drive State Route 503 to Cougar, WA, and then 2.8 miles east on Lewis River Road. After the road changes to Forest Road 90, continue on Forest Road 90 until you reach Forest Road 83, then turn left. Continue driving to Forest Road 83 for 3 miles, then turn left onto Forest Road 8303. After about 1.5 kilometers, you’ll have passed Trail of Two Forest.
  • The Apes’ Headquarters is located on the left side of Forest Road 8303, at Ape Cave.
  • Fees are $5 per vehicle/day, or you can use a current Recreation Pass. Payment can be made on-site using the fee tube.

Whether you’re a seasoned spelunker or a curious newbie, Ape Cave provides an unmatched look into the natural forces that shape our planet. Have you visited this cool lava tube? Tell us about your experience!


Ape Cave, with its unthinkable depths and volcanic origins, invites adventurers to explore its solitary passageways. Whether you’re exploring the family-friendly Lower Cave or scaling lava falls in the more difficult Upper Cave, this subterranean wonder ensures an amazing adventure. Remember to bring your headlamp, sturdy boots, and a feeling of wonder as you explore Washington’s historic lava tube. And as you emerge from the darkness, you will be filled with pride for having conquered this natural marvel!

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