Exploring Ape Cave

This week, we take you to explore Ape Cave just south of Mt. St. Helens.  Ape cave is located 75 miles from Portland, about an hour and a half drive from Portland.  Ape Cave was formed over 2000 years ago when a rare lava flow pulsed through the tunnel for several months creating a deep and wide tube.  When the eruption finally came to an end, it left spectacular 13,042 foot long lava tube – the third longest in North America.

Our Video

Ape cave was discovered in 1947 by a logger and first explored by a group of Boy Scouts in 1950.  The name Ape Cave is loosely tied to the local Native American tales of Sasquatch sightings in the area.

Head down the trail and make sure your lights work while learn about white nose syndrome.  It is a disease that is rapidly killing bats across the country and the USFS has special instructions on preventing it if you travel to different cave systems.

When you get in the cave, continue straight to hike the 0.75 mile lower cave.  It should take around an hour.  To hike the upper cave, turn around at the bottom of the stairs.  The 1.5 mile trip takes around 2.5 hours to complete – returning on a paved trail above ground.  This section of the cave is less travelled due to rockfalls and a 8 foot tall lava rock wall.

For maps of the cave systems, visit: http://www.mountsthelens.com/ape-caves.html

This episode was one the the first ones we made, and it shows.  We have gotten a lot better, I promise.  This video is one of three slated for a makeover before we start our next season. 

Our Tips for Visiting

  • After finding parking, make sure to use the restroom – as there are no places to relieve yourself in the cave.  You will need a jacket, because the cave is a chilly 42 degrees year round.
  • Even if you brought your own headlamp, we recommend renting a gas lantern for $5.  It will give off much more light, you will be able to see in all directions and it will add some warmth to your trip.  Plus you’ll get the feeling of being a real explorer.
  • Also in the same area, just 10 miles away is Lava Canyon –  a family friendly hike with a suspension bridge over a large waterfall.  Many people will visit Ape Cave and Lava Canyon together making a fun day trip.  To see our adventure, visit Hiking Lava Canyon


More information on the fees, passes and other information can be found at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=40393

If you enjoyed our video and think your friends would like it, we would love for you to share it using one of the buttons below.  If you are interested in coming along with us on all of our travels, you can join us on FacebookYouTubeInstagramWordPress or via e-mail.  Thanks for exploring with us!

© Divergent Life Media, LLC


3 Comments on “Exploring Ape Cave

  1. Pingback: Hiking Lava Canyon | a divergent life

  2. Enjoyed this, and the conversation. You do a good job preparing people and also describing how it was formed. Is this area still open during the winter, I wonder? I’ll bet Lucius Would have enjoyed living there! Love, Mom and Dad



    • It is open year round, but not staffed. It would be creepy to go when no one was around for miles… or be one of the scouts exploring it for the first time.


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