If you’re an outdoors kind of person, then the Ape Cave should be on your list of hikes to do (at least twice) before you die.

What is the Ape Cave? The Ape cave is a lava tube in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Mount St. Helens. It’s the longest lava tube in the US (2.5 miles) and one of the largest in North America. The cave was formed over 2000 years ago during one of the many eruptions on the mountain.

Why do they call it the Ape Cave?  Well, you can thank Bigfoot for that. The short story is a logger named Larry Johnson discovered the cave in the early 50s and told a Boy Scoutmaster about it. The Scout troop called themselves “The Apes;” named after their intense interest in the Bigfoot stories.  They explored the cave and named it “The Ape Cave”.  Bigfoot in the 50s was described as a “harry ape like creature”.

Plan on a full day – the Ape Cave is a 4.5 hour drive from Tri-Cities. The hike itself took us (a group of 7) just over 4 hours to explore. The lower cave is an easy hike, while the upper cave is more challenging – you could twist an ankle and/or slip and get bruised really easily. The upper section is not for small children – you’ll be climbing over huge rock piles, squeezing between rocks and scaling an 8 foot wall.   

Make sure you have a headlamp with extra batteries and a hand-held flashlight. If the lights go out it will be pitch black! We actually ran into two or three groups with just cell phone flashlights. NOT SMART!  Wear rain gear (constant mist and drip from the ceiling) and dress warm, the temperature stays at a steady 42 degrees all year long. Bring a water bottle and fuel up on food beforehand. Another tip – use the restroom before you head down into the darkness - there are NO restrooms down below.  Don’t forget your camera!

Once you’re out of the cave you’ll have a mile hike back to the parking area. Just follow the blue arrows that are clearly marked on trees. Get more Ape Cave information from the US Forest Service!

Check out my short video below from inside the cave and the exit.

Happy hiking.