Ape Cave Lava Tubes
Ape Cave Lava Tubes
4.5
About
Formed about 2,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption, this is one of the longest lava tubes (12,810 feet) in the world.
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  • Brian B
    Marion, Ohio83 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Super example of a lava tube
    We only hiked the out-and-back lower cave, but this was enough for us to have a great experience at Ape Cave. This is a must-see, especially if you have never seen the inside of a lave tube before. Dress in layers and bring extra flashlights. This is a great way to fill out a Mt St Helens visit, especially while the Johnston Ridge Laboratory is inaccessible due to the landslide. Make sure to get your timed entry ticket ahead of time on the recreation.gov website.
    Visited June 2023
    Written 24 June 2023
  • Getaway49998104014
    5 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Great fun! If you can do stairs, you can do the lower cave trail. Upper cave trail for more adventurous.
    Such an amazing experience! The two caves are large enough that you don’t feel claustrophobic & it’s too amazing to care. If hiking both upper & lower, do lower first to get acclimated to the dark & the uneven lava rock floor. Upper requires some skill climbing rough lava rock piles as high as 20 feet up and down. Sturdy gloves ( I brought leather), good tread on your hiking footwear & 2 light sources (headlamp & flashlight) are a must. There’s an 8 foot rock wall that I needed a little help (slight push on my bum) to get to the top. Some reviews may mention a rope to help you here, but the park removes any ropes, so don’t count on it. The 1.5 mile hike back to the parking lot is easy & the forest smells amazing. Lots of people, (reservations required), but if you find a flat area with no people, turn off your light sources for a moment to experience the cave darkness.
    Visited June 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 29 June 2023
  • Jessica K
    Tarpon Springs, Florida455 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Ape cave exploration
    This is an enjoyable lava tube cave experience. The cave is completely black, but you can (should) rent flashlights from the information station - phone lights are not sufficient. Or else be smart and bring your own flashlights. The cave offers 2 options - the easiest, and a non easy option (both are included with park entry). We did the easy, and it is very easy to stroll through - with flashlights. Our teenagers tried to do the tough one after, but said it was too much climbing and going through spaces on hands and knees kind of exploration. Although they did complete a portion, they didn’t do the whole hard trek. There are several toilet pits near the information station. Facilities are primitive. Definitely bring a jacket/sweater for the lava tube as the temperature was low 50’s high 40’s inside, with an area that had an almost ‘wind tunnel’ blasting of cold air.
    Visited July 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 24 July 2023
  • Greg W
    Vancouver, Washington225 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Very Unique Hiking Experience"
    Unique hiking experience. Believe all of the information about bringing lights and warm clothing (headlamps for each hiker and at least one handheld flashlight for your group seems to work). Did the shorter lower hike and it was plenty enough to get the flavor of the tube experience. Have friends that have done both the upper and lower and they described the upper area as quite challenging. Suggest going up the road 9-10 miles past the caves to the Lahar Viewpoint and Lava Canyon spots - great views there of Mt. St. Helens and areas where melted glacier during the eruption scoured the side of the mountain (not to mention a nice waterfall in the Lava Canyon).
    Visited August 2023
    Written 3 August 2023
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

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beechusa75
2 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2023 • Friends
They will not let you get in without the ticket online. The guy at the booth is really odd and said he came up with the system (trevor). even if someone doesn't show up for their spot, you can't get one there and they don't even track it. Just another red tape moment. Say NO to making anything a national park or monument period. So out of town friends were unable to see it, sad and disappointing. Odd guy said that they want to do this EVERYWHERE and to get used to doing that for anything national park/monument soon. IRRITATING
Written 5 September 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Julie W
14 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Friends
So, let me tell you a short story. I visited the Ape Caves earlier today and found it to be an exciting experience. However, there was hesitation and anxiety. Not because I wasn't capable (I exercise regularly and am able to hike up to 2nd Burroughs on Mt. Rainier).
After doing some research and watching YouTube vids to see what was needed for this trip, this is what I found:
1.) A park pass is needed (I used the American The Beautiful Pass)
2.) Timed-entry from Recreation.gov is also needed.
Place these 2 items on your dash of you car.
What to bring with you:
1.) 2 headlamps (I purchased mine from Amazon-MAFSEUT Rechargeable Headlamp, 8 LED 18000 High Lumen Bright Headlamp with Red Light). This one headlamp lasted nearly 4 hours when going through the Lower and Upper Caves
2.) 2 flashlights (I would suggest getting one with a strap bc it's difficult to shimmy over the boulders with a flashlight in your hand. Amazon-Rechargeable Flashlights 900000 High Lumens). The shop there also has flashlights to rent for $5.
*Be sure to bring extra batteries for items #1 and #2 because it is PITCH BLACK in there.
3.) Knee pads (Amazon-Tactical Combat Knee & Elbow Protective Pads)
4.) Gloves (Amazon-Black Diamond Crag Full-Finger Rock Climbing Gloves for Belaying):
*The knee pads and gloves helped tremendously when climbing the 7ft wall and shimmying over some of the boulders.
5.) Rain jacket w a hood and maybe a light jacket underneath. If you get cold, then I'd suggest a shirt that is something like quick dry. It may not seem like it at first, but near the end, you'll be sweaty. I also had yoga pants under my rain-type pants.
6.) Small backpack that could hold my camelpak filled w water)
7.) If you can walk wo your glasses, then put them away in your case bc once you get hot those glasses will get foggy and you won't be able to see. I scratched mine up bc I forgot my case. If you need your glasses then carry a lens cloth and have an eyeglass holder strap so that they don't fall off while you're bouldering.
8.) Had a Pelican waterproof lanyard case for my phone. Didn't want to drop it onto the boulders and shatter the phone. Be sure to take pictures!
9.) Hiking boots
10.) Reflective tape to put on your clothes. I even used glow-in-the-dark tape. This way people could see me without requiring a light source.
9.
We went down some steps and into darkness. It was a bit creepy at first, but once our eyes became accustomed to the darkness, we were on our way. We tried out the Lower Caves first and went all the way to the end. Yes, we saw the Meatball and the walls were pretty fascinating as a result of all the different textures. Not too bad of a hike. Took about 50 minutes or so 3/4mile to and back.

Then came the Upper Cave, which is located behind the 2nd set of stairs that took you to the Lowers. This is where the anxiety began to settle in. The first 50feet was just bumpy, but then came the 1st large boulder pile. This was kind of intimidating. Then came the 2nd, 3rd, and a small 4th pile. This is where I became anxiety-ridden. All I thought to myself was, "If I have to keep climbing boulders at this rate, then I'm not going to make it and run out of juice (aka energy) by the end. I sat down and was in tears because my fear was being trapped in there, even though it's nearly impossible. I told my friend that we needed to turn back because I wasn't going to make it. So, we started making our way back about 50feet and then I felt better. That's when I turned back around and had decided to make another attempt. Then at the same rock pile, I encountered the same panic attack. My friend suggested that we just moving forward and it was possible that the pile was giving out some strong energy that was overwhelming my senses. Whether that was true or not, I had no idea, but I found it strange that once I left that particular pile, all was good again.
We ended up moving on and then we encountered the wall. There was one area to place to your foot, but then your hand needed to grab an area of the rock to help pull yourself up; however, on your knees (this is where the knee pads came in hand. otherwise you'd tear up your knees). I pushed my friend up first by her tushy. Once she was up, she pulled me up by one of my arms and my other was pushing me up, and my knee/knee pad was also helping me get up over the wall. Ta-daa! We did it. There were a couple of smaller walls afterwards, but one had a narrow area in which you'd have to ride it like a horse to get to the other side.
When you encounter a flat area, don't move. Turn off all your lights and just listen to the peace and quiet. It's eerie, but serene at the same time. It makes you realize how much noise we deal with on a daily basis.
We went over several other boulder piles, but they weren't as large as the first set. We finally encountered the skylight and that was beautiful. Moving on, we encountered some more boulder piles, and they were pretty big and long as well. At this point, we thought it was never going to end. This is when we FINALLY saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Literally. The Exit.

Take it from me, I would have regretted not completing the Uppers and I'm glad I did (with the help of my friend's encouragement).

There was a commenter who stated that there were 27 boulder piles to climb over. My friend and I (both females) did not encounter 27 piles. It was more like 10. Once we hit the end, it was about a 30-min walk back to the parking lot on a trail through a forest of trees. The ladies in the shop were very nice and gave us some pointers on how to climb the wall, etc. We are grateful for the input.

Oh, and to the young couple who took the large, bowling bowl-sized lava rock to your car-Karma will be watching you from here on out.
Written 29 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

SnowyShasta
Portland, OR2,308 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Friends
We visited here with a few adults and some teenagers and had a great experience. When we visited in August all reservations were sold out, so be sure to plan in advance. Reservations are $2/vehicle online.

The cave entrance is a short distance from the parking lot. There was an employee at the entrance that shared a little information with us. We made sure to be prepared with flashlights or (even better) headlamps for everyone. Headlamps were more convenient since we found ourselves often using our hands through the cave. It was 42 degrees F when we visited; I had long pants (good again since there are rough surfaces), and a fleece over short sleeves and was very comfortable, especially once we started moving.

We didn't do the lower cave, which is about 3/4 mile each way to a dead end and back. It's supposed to be much easier walking. We went the opposite direction, through the upper cave, which is about 1.5 miles to another exit (through the ceiling via a ladder) and then 1.5 miles (downhill) return hiking on a trail through the forest.

This route was quite challenging, with lots of clambering over rockfalls, uneven ground even in the "flat" sections, and one spot with a 6-foot pretty sheer cliff that would be difficult to do alone but worked well with our group helping each other. We all had a great time, and the teens (as young as 12) were quite a bit faster than the slower adults. All in all a fun experience with some challenge that we very much enjoyed.
Written 20 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

SMF-Collegeville
Batesville, IN205 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023
This is an unusual experience allowing you to hike through old lava tubes, where lava once flowed. The main entrance to the tubes is right near the parking lot, and from there you can choose an easy, short path or a more challenging long path. If you head through the more challenging path from this entrance, it is uphill most of the way, including one near-vertical ledge about six feet tall that is very challenging to get up. If you want to do the longer, more challenging hike, I highly recommend you hike along the "return" trail and go down into the caves where most people exit. In particular, that ledge is much easier to handle from this direction. We were able to make the hard hike (two adults, 8 year old, 4 year old), but the 4 year old needed to be carried through some of the challenging points and all of us needed help for the ledge (the adults could help each other, but neither of us could have gotten up completely on our own. We're not in the best shape, but neither are we completely out of shape).

Notes: They require two light sources per person, and they rent flashlights / lanterns. They note the cave is always cool / cold - and it is - be sure to have at least sweatshirts and long pants for everyone, and wear closed-toed shoes. They require parking reservations to control number - be sure to book ahead. Because of the challenges, assume this will take you twice as long to hike through as you otherwise would think based on the length.
Written 19 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Greg W
Vancouver, WA225 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023
Unique hiking experience. Believe all of the information about bringing lights and warm clothing (headlamps for each hiker and at least one handheld flashlight for your group seems to work). Did the shorter lower hike and it was plenty enough to get the flavor of the tube experience. Have friends that have done both the upper and lower and they described the upper area as quite challenging. Suggest going up the road 9-10 miles past the caves to the Lahar Viewpoint and Lava Canyon spots - great views there of Mt. St. Helens and areas where melted glacier during the eruption scoured the side of the mountain (not to mention a nice waterfall in the Lava Canyon).
Written 3 August 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jessica K
Tarpon Springs, FL455 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023 • Family
This is an enjoyable lava tube cave experience. The cave is completely black, but you can (should) rent flashlights from the information station - phone lights are not sufficient. Or else be smart and bring your own flashlights. The cave offers 2 options - the easiest, and a non easy option (both are included with park entry). We did the easy, and it is very easy to stroll through - with flashlights. Our teenagers tried to do the tough one after, but said it was too much climbing and going through spaces on hands and knees kind of exploration. Although they did complete a portion, they didn’t do the whole hard trek. There are several toilet pits near the information station. Facilities are primitive. Definitely bring a jacket/sweater for the lava tube as the temperature was low 50’s high 40’s inside, with an area that had an almost ‘wind tunnel’ blasting of cold air.
Written 24 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Roadtripnana
Point Pleasant, WV656 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023 • Family
Make sure you get reservations before coming here! You’ll need flashlights and warm clothing too. This was SO awesome and fun for us! It was a highlight of our trip. Absolutely loved going through the cave. SO interesting!!
Written 3 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Stephanie M
Federal Way, WA11 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023
Had a great time. We had 7 adults and 3 children with us - 9, 5, and 4 years old. We did the shorter hike and made it about halfway through. Just remember it is colder down there than the top, bring flashlights and good walking shoes.
Written 2 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Getaway49998104014
5 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Couples
Such an amazing experience! The two caves are large enough that you don’t feel claustrophobic & it’s too amazing to care. If hiking both upper & lower, do lower first to get acclimated to the dark & the uneven lava rock floor. Upper requires some skill climbing rough lava rock piles as high as 20 feet up and down. Sturdy gloves ( I brought leather), good tread on your hiking footwear & 2 light sources (headlamp & flashlight) are a must. There’s an 8 foot rock wall that I needed a little help (slight push on my bum) to get to the top. Some reviews may mention a rope to help you here, but the park removes any ropes, so don’t count on it. The 1.5 mile hike back to the parking lot is easy & the forest smells amazing. Lots of people, (reservations required), but if you find a flat area with no people, turn off your light sources for a moment to experience the cave darkness.
Written 29 June 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

John S
Altoona, PA271 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Couples
When we can to visit Mt. St. Helens, we found out about the caves and decided to do the hike. You need to get a ticket online. It’s really cheap. It’s a self guided tour, and bring a flashlight, the bigger the better, and have one for each person. You can rent one at the station as well. We did the lower part of the cave because of time. If we had more time, we would have done the upper as well. Just amazing what nature creates. Totally worth the visit, a must do at Mt. St. Helens.
Written 26 June 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Ape Cave Lava Tubes - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024) - Tripadvisor

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