Our oldest son decending into a tree mold close to Ape Cave.
Ape Cave lava tube is the longest cave tube (12,810 feet) in the main 48 state body of the United States, and one of the longest in the world. Located south of, and near Mount St. Helens. Lava stalactites and stalagmites can be seen on the walls and floor of the cave. A favorite destination on my Oregon area hiking page. During the summer, a naturalist leads Ape Cave tours through the lower part of the cave. Be sure to read the brochure available at the cave entrance to find out more about the cave and caving equipment you will need to explore on your own. Sturdy shoes or boots, warm clothing, and three sources of light are recommended. GPS is 46.123721, -122.217040
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Two routes of exploration are available in the cave and an above ground trail Ape Cave #239, connects the main and upper entrances. The lower cave is a 3/4 mile hike that takes 1 hour round trip. The challenging upper cave is 1.5 miles long and requires climbing over piles of rocks. That upper cave route takes 2.5 to 3 hours. The temperature in Ape Cave averages about 42 degrees all through the year. According to Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters, you can rent lanterns at the interpretive center during the summer. Food, pets and firearms are not allowed in the caves. There is no pass fee in the winter season. But in summer, a pass is required. If you are concerned about highway conditions in the winter, try contacting: Gifford Pinchot National Forest Headquarters at +1 - 360 - 891 - 5000.
Very close to Ape Cave, is the Trail of Two Forests. This 0.25 mile boardwalk trail allows you to venture through a land of lava, moss and forest trees. You will discover tree molds or impressions of an ancient forest engulfed by a lava flow nearly 2,000 years ago, and the living evergreen forest that also grows there. If you bring a flashlight, there is one section to crawl through. Children seem to fit this crawling experience better than adults. In 2004, I accompanied our son's science class on a trip to Ape Cave and The Trail of Two Forests. The guide said that the field trip was a whole different experience for classes that had time to experience the crawl at The Trail of Two Forests. Scenic views of Mt. St. Helens can be seen as you drive to Ape Cave and The Trail of Two Forests. Here are some directions.
- From Interstate 5 -- take Exit 21, the Woodland, Washington, exit. Go east on Hy. 503 and USFS Rd. 90, for 35.7 miles.
- Turn left onto USFS Rd. 83, proceed 2 miles. Turn left onto USFS Road 8303,go 0.2 miles to Trail of Two Forests. Then 1 mile on USFS Rd. to Ape Caves.