Get Outside in a Cave...Mt. St. Helens Ape Caves
The full experience at Mt. St. Helens Ape Caves includes the easy exploration of a spacious lava tube, followed by more difficult travel through a smaller, longer, and more rugged lava tube to an exit. Then, enjoy an easy return hike winding through shady forest and crusty lava formations.
Mt St Helens Ape CavesRe-Opened May 18th 2021
Ape Cave, visitors will be required to obtain a timed reservation ticket in advance of their visit. Reservations available at www.recreation.govKnow before you go
Before you go, make sure everyone is aware of the In order to protect the fragile cave environment, the following are prohibited inside Ape Cave: Pets, Food or Drinks, Alcohol, Fireworks, Fires, Camping and Smoking.Help protect Ape Cave
Please do not touch cave walls or ceiling. Touching kills cave slime, a basis for the food chain of tiny creatures that live there. Help protect our bats and caves from White Nose Syndrome. Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all that you bring with you.Explore Ape Cave
Explore a chilly, pitch-black lava tube over two miles long. A short, paved, accessible trail beneath towering trees leads to a stairwell into the cave. The ¾ mile, one-way lower cave route is relatively easy and family friendly. For the more adventurous, the 1.5 mile upper cave route leads to a climb up an eight foot rock wall and scramble over rock piles, then an exit and a 1.5 mile above ground hike back to the parking lot.
Ape Cave is the third longest lava tube (2.5 miles long) in North America and the cave temperature is 42 degrees F/5.6 degrees C year-round. Make sure to bring two sources of light per person (a cell phone light is not bright enough), sturdy shoes, warm clothing, even in warm weather. In summer, Ape Headquarters, a small information station, offers lantern rentals, information and sales items to ticket holders.Directions
From Woodland, WA take State Route 503 to Cougar WA then take Lewis River Road east for 2.8 miles. The road then changes to Forest Road 90. Continue on Forest Road 90 to Forest Road 83, approximately 4 miles and turn left. Drive Forest Road 83 for 3 miles then turn left onto Forest Road 8303. Drive approximately 1.5 miles, past Trail of Two Forest, Apes' Headquarters is located at Ape Cave on Forest Road 8303 on the left.Accessibility:
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.About Ape Cave
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.All Information is used from USDA - Forest Service - Gifford Pinchot National Forest - Ape Caves Interpretive Site.
For More Information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=40393
From Woodland, WA take State Route 503 to Cougar WA then take Lewis River Road east for 2.8 miles. The road then changes to Forest Road 90. Continue on Forest Road 90 to Forest Road 83, approximately 4 miles and turn left. Drive Forest Road 83 for 3 miles then turn left onto Forest Road 8303. Drive approximately 1.5 miles, past Trail of Two Forest, Apes' Headquarters is located at Ape Cave on Forest Road 8303 on the left.
Climbers Bivouac Trailhead
This trailhead provides access to: Monitor Ridge Climbing Route the summer climbing route to Mount St Helens Summit, Ptarmigan Trail #216A and the Loowit Trail #216.
Climbers Bivouac has toilets but no water. Tent pads are available for camping on a first come, first serve basis.
Parking at Climbers Bivouac will be limited due to popularity and number of spaces. Motorhomes and travel trailers please park at Marble Mountain Sno Park. Overflow parking is located at Marble Mountain Sno Park, but be advised this parking area access the Worm Flows winter climbing route. Please adjust accordingly and plan for flexibility on your trip.
From Cougar, WA take Lewis River Road/Forest Road 90 east for 6.4 miles then go left on Forest Road 83. Follow Forest Road 83 for 3 miles then stay left onto Forest Road 81 and go about a mile to Forest Spur Road 830. Go right at Forest Road 830 and drive about .4 miles to the trailhead.
Offering picnicking opportunities on the shores of June Lake, this trail is a good choice for families and beginning hikers. June Lake was formed by a 2,000-year-old lava flow blocking a tributary of Swift Creek. The lake is located along the base of a basalt cliff over which a waterfall pours, replenishing the lake’s cold, clear water.
Start by gently climbing through a young forest, following the rushing sounds of a tributary of Swift Creek that flows from June Lake. The lake is soon reached providing a great place to picnic. Continuing, the trail climbs steeply for 0.25 mile to its junction with Loowit Trail #216. June Lake Trail #216B is the shortest access to Loowit Trail #216.
From Cougar, WA drive east for about 13 miles on State Route 503. Take a left on Forest Road 83 and travel approximately 7 miles to the turn off to June Lake Trailhead. Turn left and follow road to the parking area.
During the winter and early spring Forest Road 83 is gated at the Sno-Park.
Trail of Two Forests
View lava casts from 1,900 year old trees. Road clear to site. A Northwest Forest, America the Beautiful Pass, or $5 in the fee tube is required.
This trail loops through two forests that stand side by side, but are separated in age by 2000 years. One forest is old-growth Douglas-fir and western red-cedar and the other is a young forest that was originally engulfed by lava flows from an eruption of Mount St. Helens over two millennia ago. This forest encompasses three-dimensional imprints of trees in the old lava beds called lava casts. The boardwalk trail loops through the two forests, and is kid friendly.
From Cougar, drive east on Forest Road 90 and turn left (north) onto Forest Road 83. Drive 2 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 8303. Continue for 0.5 mile to the trailhead on the left.
Sno-Park: Marble Mountain
Marble Mountain Sno-Park is the starting point for the Worm Flows Climbing Route for Mount St Helens Summit. This is the primary climbing route used during the winter. Marble Mountain Sno-Park offers a trail system that includes 25 miles (snowmobile), and 78.4 kilometers ungroomed (ski). This area is shared with motorized and non-motorized recreationists.
From Cougar, WA drive east on Lewis River Road, which turns into Forest Road 90. Continue on Forest Road 90 until the intersection with Forest Road 83. Turn left on Forest Road 83 and continue approximately 6 miles to the Marble Mountain Sno-Park. During the winter and early spring Forest Road 83 is gated at the Sno-Park.
In this landscape much more stark than the forest below, spectacular views await all visitors. There are three sections of the Lava Canyon Trail distinguished by increasing difficulty. The upper trail is accessible and paved to a waterfall viewpoint. This portion is the easiest and leads you past a series of interpretive signs, which describe the formation of the canyon. The trail begins from Lava Canyon Interpretive Trailhead.
Below the waterfall viewpoint the trail becomes more difficult; it is no longer paved and skirts high cliffs. This segment forms a loop, crossing the canyon on a 125-foot cable suspension bridge. THE SUPENSION BRIDGE IS CLOSED FOR THE 2019 SEASON DUE TO CABLE DAMAGE. The bridge provides spectacular views of the canyon below but may be unnerving to some hikers. The trail returns on the south side of the canyon, crossing a steel bridge upstream of the waterfalls and rejoins the paved trail.
The lower trail is most difficult as it descends steeply into the canyon. If you are uncomfortable with heights, this segment is not for you. Beginning at the suspension bridge, the trail crosses an exposed cliff face followed by a water crossing with a cable grab-line. A 30-foot metal ladder descends a vertical cliff providing access to the canyons deepest recesses and roaring waterfalls. The trail soon intersects Ship Trail 184B which climbs 0.2 mile to a viewpoint atop the Ship, a lava formation that overlooks a long series of waterfalls in the lower canyon. A few tenths of a mile further, the canyon begins to broaden and flatten as it approaches a large alluvial fan spreading into the Smith Creek valley. Here the Lava Canyon Trail ends where it intersects Smith Creek Trail 225. A car shuttle to the lower trailhead permits a one-way downhill hike.
From Woodland, WA take State Route 503/Forest Road 90 east to the well-signed junction with Forest Road 83. Take a left on Forest Road 83 and follow for 12 miles to Lava Canyon Trailhead/Intepretive Site at the end of the road.
This site is south of Spirit Lake at the end of Forest Road 99. This site accesses the area devastated by the 1980 eruption and is a top location to view this area. Looking north, you see log-filled Spirit Lake topped by Mount Margaret. To the south you look upward at Mount St. Helens’ crater and lava dome.
Nearly everything in view is within the area decimated by the eruption. Encounter the blast’s full impact as you transition from green forest to standing dead forest to blown down forest. The landscape in this area is littered with sand and gray rocks from that event.
Windy Ridge Interpretive viewpoint provides access to Truman Trail #207 and Willow Springs Trail #207A.
From Randle, WA travel south on State Route (SR) 131 until the road forks (1 mile). Stay to the right on State Route 131 which becomes Forest Road 25. Travel south on Forest Road 25 for 19 miles to Forest Road 99. Turn right on Forest Road 99 and drive 16 miles until it terminates at Windy Ridge.