Ape Cave Lava Tubes
Glorious Views of Pacific Northwest Nature
Head off to a day of Pacific Northwest hiking and exploration with Ape Cave Lava Tubes, and discover astonishing natural forms. Located in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, within driving distance of our Kelso hotel, Ape Cave was discovered in 1947 but remained unexplored until the 1950s. It's not only one of the most popular outdoor attractions in Washington State, but it's a geological anomaly: lava tubes aren't often found here, as volcanoes of the Cascade Range are mostly stratovolcanoes and do not typically erupt with pahoehoe (fluid basalt). Its passageway is the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States and the third longest lava tube in North America, at 2.5 miles (4,023 meters).
Hikers regularly sing the praises of Ape Cave, with its extraordinary views of the Mount St. Helens lahar region, and you'll know why once you've arrived. After you've accessed the cave via the footpath, you have nearly three hours of exploration ahead of you. The lower cave's 1.6 mile round trip features a fairly level, mudflow-covered floor, as well as the unique formations known as the “railroad tracks” and the "meatball." The upper cave (not recommended for children) is more intensive, with travel over large rock piles and a climb up an 8-foot lava fall. The physical challenge comes with a reward in the form of the stunning Skylight, an opening to the surface of the cave, before finding your way to the upper exit and Ape Cave Trail #239.
Open year round, Ape Cave has dedicated parking at Trail of Two Forests, and the Ape Headquarters Center reopens Memorial Day Weekend, 2016; it will be open weekends from 10 AM to 5 PM until the end of June when it will be open 7 days a week. After Labor Day, the Center will be open weekends through September. Ape Headquarters Center provides lantern rentals ($5) and White Nose Bat Syndrome information during the summer. Be sure to bring two sources of light per person, sturdy shoes, and warm clothing, and be prepared to practice "Leave No Trace" ethics.