Cougar, Washington: Ape Cave Lava Tube

An unlit, "wild" collection of natural lava tubes, 2.5 miles long (the longest in the U.S.), explored by lantern or flashlight by hardy, flexible adventurers.

Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

USFS Rd 8303, Cougar, WA
Part of the Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument. I-5 exit 21 (Woodland). Drive east on Hwy 503/USFS Rd 90 for 35.5 miles. Turn left (north) onto USFS Rd 83, drive two miles, then turn left (west) onto USFS Rd 8303. Drive one-quarter mile to the Trail of Two Forests, then continue another mile on USFS Rd 8303 to the parking lot of lower entrance to Ape Cave.
Daily to dusk in summer. Parking permit rqd. (Call to verify)
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Visitor Tips and News About Ape Cave Lava Tube

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Ape Cave Lava Tube.

Ape Cave Lava Tube

Ape Cave Lava Tube is one of the coolest places I've ever been.

[Jason Sheinkopf, 08/15/2015]
Ape Cave Lava Tube

Make sure you buy a permit for parking -- otherwise a $52 parking ticket will be waiting for you on your car.

[Stephanie, 02/03/2014]

In the summer, the Northwest Forest Parking Pass is $5/day, available at the Mount St. Helens National Monument and other Visitors Centers. In winter, the snowbound cave area requires a sno-park pass.

Ape Cave Lava Tube

I grew up in the area, so I've been to the Ape Caves numerous times, and each time is just as fun and exciting as the last.

It's very dark and cold - you will need light! Also bring a sweatshirt and good sturdy shoes; you will get hot on your way through so you can always just tie your sweatshirt around your waist. There are two ways to venture -- one is harder than the other but both are great. Remember to always watch your step and rest when needed. Once you get to the end, you climb up a ladder into the beautiful forest. You will have a decent hike back.

[Luke, 01/21/2010]
Ape Cave (Lava Tubes)

Natives of Washington state know these tubes as the "ape caves." For young people (college age) and those in good shape, this is a challenging but very doable fun thing. Wear warm clothes, bring lots of light. If you are afraid of the dark, or small spaces, I would not recommend this.

[Jen, 02/14/2004]
Underground Volcano Tour

This is actually part of Mt. St. Helens National Park. You can rent big gas lanterns for the easy path, or flashlights for the hard path. The easy route is paved; The hard path feels like you're climbing into the Gates of Hell. It's about a mile of underground travel, clambering over boulders and up sheer rock walls. No path is marked and you're never really sure if you're going the right way or if you're just going to disappear forever in the bowels of a dormant volcano. They recommend that you take two or three flashlights if you take the hard route, and when I dropped one of mine off a ten-foot rock ledge, I was glad I listened.

Some parts are like climbing over an avalanche, others are smooth and wide-open as a highway tunnel. Sometimes the lava hardened while flowing and is permanently in liquid ripples. I felt like I was in the giant ant tunnels in the movie "THEM!" Everything is damp and eerily silent.

[Jason Smith, 03/06/2000]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Spirit Lake Volcano DestructionSpirit Lake Volcano Destruction, Spirit Lake, WA - 12 mi.
Statue of the Tree PlanterStatue of the Tree Planter, Toutle, WA - 16 mi.
Mt. St. Helens Miracle Survivor CarMt. St. Helens Miracle Survivor Car, Toutle, WA - 20 mi.
In the region:
Paxton Gate Portland, Portland, OR - 44 mi.

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March 23, 2018

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