What: Ape Cave is a 2 1⁄4-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 more rugged trip, you can walk the length of the cave scrambling over large rock piles along the way.
When: The cave is open all year, but the headquarters is open only 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 one of the few lava tubes around Mount St. Helens that can be visited without special permission.
Getting there: Follow state Route 503 through Cougar and continue on Forest Service Road 90. Seven miles past Cougar, turn left on Forest Road 83. After 2 more miles, turn left on Forest Road 8303 and continue to the trailhead.
Cost: A $5 per day or $30 per year Northwest Forest Pass is needed to visit the cave.
Of note: Forest rangers recommend 2 1⁄2 hours to explore the entire cave. They also suggest bringing three light sources and spare batteries. Don’t forget sturdy shoes, warm clothes and a helmet.
More information: fs.usda.gov/mountsthelens.
Craig Hill, firstname.lastname@example.org