Ape Cave

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Ape Cave Attraction Description

Nestled beneath the towering presence of Mount St. Helens, Ape Cave stands as an extraordinary natural wonder, beckoning adventurers to explore the depths of one of the longest lava tubes in North America. Located near Mount Rainier in Washington, this geological marvel offers an unparalleled journey into a subterranean world.

The Lava Tube Adventure

Ape Cave boasts the title of being the third longest lava tube in North America, stretching over 2.4 miles in length. This well-known and managed lava tube provides a unique opportunity for visitors to delve into the mysterious depths of the Earth.

The adventure begins with a visit to the large paved parking lot, where you’ll find a manned information station. During the bustling months of the year, a ranger is on-site to provide valuable insights and guidance for your underground exploration.

Cave Exploration

Ape Cave offers two distinct routes for adventurers of varying levels. The first, a ¾ mile one-way lower cave route, is relatively easy and perfect for families. It provides a family-friendly journey through the subterranean landscape, with well-maintained pathways and accessible features.

For the more adventurous, the 1.5 mile upper cave route awaits. This route presents a thrilling challenge, including an eight-foot rock wall that must be scaled, along with scrambling over rock piles. Afterward, it leads to an exhilarating exit and a 1.5-mile above-ground hike back to the parking lot.

Prepare for the Underground Adventure

Exploring Ape Cave is a unique experience, but it’s important to be well-prepared. The cave maintains a constant temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so be sure to dress warmly, even in the summer. Sturdy footwear is essential, given the uneven terrain inside the cave.

To ensure a safe and well-illuminated journey, bring two sources of light per person. It’s crucial to note that a cell phone light is not sufficient for this adventure. For added convenience, lantern rentals are available at Ape Headquarters during the summer season. These lanterns offer reliable illumination for your exploration.

Cave Etiquette

While exploring the cave, it’s essential to follow cave etiquette to protect its fragile ecosystem. Please refrain from touching the cave walls or ceiling, as contact can harm the delicate cave slime, which serves as a foundation for the cave’s tiny inhabitants. Additionally, help preserve the bats and the cave from White Nose Syndrome by practicing Leave No Trace principles and packing out all your belongings.

Reservations and Timed Visits

Ape Cave is a popular attraction, and timed reservations are required to visit during the open season, which runs from May 18 through October 31. You can reserve your two-hour time slot on Recreation.gov for a small administrative fee of $2.

The Geological Marvel

Ape Cave’s fascinating history traces back to about 2,000 years ago when an 8-mile-long lava flow known as the Cave Basalt poured down the southern flank of Mount St. Helens. The lava flow created a hardened crust, forming an insulated tube for the still-molten lava within. This tube continued to move for as much as a year before the last of the molten lava drained out, leaving the interior hollow.

Over time, sections of the tube collapsed, creating several natural skylights. The largest of these collapsed sections now serves as the entrance to the cave.

An Unmissable Subterranean Expedition

Ape Cave is a natural wonder waiting to be explored, offering an exhilarating underground adventure that’s accessible to a wide range of enthusiasts. As you venture into the depths of this lava tube, you’ll witness the geological forces that shaped the landscape, making it an unforgettable experience.

Make your reservation, don your sturdy footwear, and embark on a journey to Ape Cave, one of the most accessible and awe-inspiring lava tubes in North America.

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July 4, 2017



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