Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow the signs to Ape Caves.
The Ape Cave is a large lava tube that was formed about 2,000 years ago from a lava flow on Mt. St. Helens. It is the third longest in North America. The lava tube temperature is 42 degrees year round (bring those jackets, even in the summer heat). It’s recommended that each person has two light sources. You can rent lanterns for $5 at the Ape Headquarters but it is not open year round, call ahead.
From the parking area follow the short trail that takes you to the opening of the tube. There are lots of interpretive signs and usually a forest service employee in this area. Head down the steps and immediately feel the temperature drop, most people stop here and layer up! Head into the tube and come to two sets of stairs, follow signs for the lower cave.
From here you are just walking through the tube, you may get dripped on a few times as well. You will pass the “meatball” which is a blob that hardened in a narrow space. The tube is .75 miles one way and narrows the farther you go. The ground is very uneven so watch your step! The very end of the tube is only accessible if you are comfortable crawling. Once you reach where you feel like stopping turn around and head back out the way you came.
Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation: 150 feet
Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed in the Ape Caves.
Good For: All ages- just make sure you are sure footed and ok with low light situations. We did see some young children crying, most likely because it’s so dark.
Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass
Seasons: Open all year but call ahead late fall through spring.
Overall: Fun experience, can get extremely busy during summer weekends.