Ape Cave sits among a mixed-species forest stand. A short, paved trail leads from the newly remodeled and accessible parking lot with visitor center and facilities to the caves lower entrance and interpretive area. The trail continues on to the upper entrance, though it becomes more steep and rough.
Accessible Adventures Video
Ape Cave Information
The Third Longest lava tube (13,042’ long) in North America
Open daily from mid-June through Labor Day, 10 am to 5pm.
After Labor Day, Saturdays and Sundays only through Sept.
Guided cave walks are offered daily during the summer visitor season.
Lantern rental: $5, Winter and after hours visitors will need to bring their own light sources to explore the cave.
Ape Cave is open year round. However, during the winter you have to park at Trail of Two Forests Sno-Park and walk in. A Sno-Park Pass is required after Dec 15th.
Rentals & Guides:
Lantern Rental: $5
$5/vehicle/day from May 1- Oct. 31
An Oregon Sno-Park Permit is required during the Winter season starting Dec 15. Parking at the Trail of Two Forests Sno-Park.
To protect the cave enviroment please, NO Dogs, Pets, Food, Alcohol, Fireworks, Fires, Camping or Smoking are allowed in Ape Cave. Please be advised the inside of cars can get very hot during the summer months and is not a safe place for your pets. Please leave your pets safe at home.
From Woodland, WA take State Route 503, becoming Forest Road 90, east to the well-signed junction with FR 83. Turn left onto FR 8303 at Trail of Two Forests. Apes' Headquarters is located at Ape Cave on Forest Road 8303, 3 miles north of the junction of Forest Roads 83 and 90.
The parking lot and visitor area facilities are flat and paved. A paved trail leads to the lower cave entrance, but gets rougher to reach the upper entrance.
The lower cave is the more popular route with its fairly level, mudflow-covered floor. Highlights include “railroad tracks” and the "meatball." Allow at least an hour to complete the 1.6-mile round trip. The upper cave travels over large rock piles and requires scaling of an 8-foot lava fall.
Two-thirds of the way up you will pass beneath The Skylight, an opening to the surface. Do not try to climb out; this is NOT an exit. The upper entrance is only 0.25 mile ahead.
Allow 2.5 hours for travel through the upper cave to Ape Cave Trail #239.
To help stop the Spread of White Nose Syndrome and to Help Keep Our Caves Open please decontaminate your clothing and equipment before visiting from another cave. Please see Keep our Caves Open for more information on WNS.
About Ape Cave
What's in a Name?
Ape Cave was discovered in 1947 by a logger named Lawrence Johnson. However, the cave was not explored until the early 1950's when a scout troop, led by Harry Reese, lowered a team of scouts down a 17-foot overhang to the cave floor. Leaving footprints where no one ever had, these explorers were able to travel through a pristine lava tube full of fragile formations. Ape Cave was named by the Scout Troop in honor of their sponsor, the St. Helens Apes. This local group was made up primarily of foresters. The sponsor’s name, St. Helens Apes, may have come from an old term used for foresters in the area, "brush apes," or from the legend of Bigfoot.
An Uncommon Eruption:
The formation of Ape Cave marks an unusual period in Mount St. Helens' eruptive history in that it is the only known basaltic eruption of the volcano. Eruptions of fluid basaltic lava, much like those in Hawaii, are rare occurrences in the Cascade Mountain Range. The Cascades usually erupt lava of a thicker consistency. When this type of magma is coupled with suspended gases, explosive eruptions tend to occur. The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, exemplifies this tendency.
About 2,000 years ago, fluid basaltic lava poured down the southern flank of the volcano. As the lava flowed, chunks of the lava’s surface cooled, crashed and fused together creating a hardened crust. In turn, the crust insulated the molten lava beneath, allowing it to remain fluid and travel down to the Lewis River Valley. The hot flowing lava began melting into the pre-existing rock and soil. This thermal erosion deepened and widened the channel of the flow. The level of lava in the tube rose and fell as the eruption surged and slowed, contributing to the unique contours of the walls. During this eruptive period, hot fluid lava pulsed through the tube for months, possibly up to a year, until the eruption subsided. As a result of this rare eruption, a spectacular 13,042 foot (3976m) long lava tube, the third longest in North America, was created.
Recreation areas with activity Interpretive Areas:
Formed 1,900 years ago and first explored in the early 1950s by a local scout troop, the cave was initially the longest known lava tube in the continental United States.
Apes' Headquarters, a Forest Service building near the cave entrance, provides lantern rentals and guided walks during the summer.