WHAT: The Ape Cave is a 2¼-mile lava tube on the south side of Mount St. Helens. The cave can capture the imagination of explorers of all ages and has sections that can be visited even by small children. The lower cave is an easy walk and can be accessed by a staircase near the parking lot. If you are looking for a tougher trip, you can walk the length of the cave scrambling over large rock piles as you go.
WHEN: The cave is open all year, but the headquarters are only open from late June through Labor Day.
WHERE: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument near Cougar.
HISTORY: Formed by an eruption 2,000 years ago, Ape Cave is the only one of the more than 50 lava tubes around Mount St. Helens.
GETTING THERE: Follow state Route 503 through Cougar and continue on Forest Service Road 90. Seven miles past Cougar, turn left on FS Road 83. After 2 more miles turn left on FS Road 8303 and continue to the trailhead.
COST: A $5-per-day or $30-per-year Northwest Forest Pass is needed.
OF NOTE: Forest rangers recommend 2½ hours to explore the entire cave. They also suggest three light sources and spare batteries. Don’t forget sturdy shoes, warm clothes and a helmet. Road closures in the area affect access.
MORE INFORMATION: fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens.