Home Sports & Leisure Ape Cave

Ape Cave, near Mt St Helens, Washington


Rainy and cool outside. Inside the cave it was damp, dripping, and 42 degrees year round

Chad and I had planned on a hike in the Columbia Gorge or around Mt Hood, but the weather didn't cooperate. In fact Portland nearly broke a record for rain for that particular June day getting almost an inch. The Ape cave is the longest Lava Tube Cave in the U.S at over 2 miles long, and is always 42 degrees year round, so it seemed like a great choice of activity for a rainy day. Check this out if you want to learn more about The Ape Cave.

Chad prepares to enter the Abyss.

Chad took this picture of me at the entrace of the cave.

The typical cave sightings like stalactites and stalagmites were absent from this particular cave since itís a lava tube not a traditional cave.

I brought the D90 today with the speedlight so it really lit up the place for pictures which turned out surprisingly good.

We hiked the lower cave first which was pretty easy.

It seems so nice and bright with the speedlight, but if you turn off your headlamps it's completely dark.

I believe this is the formation called the meatball (not Chad, but the rock above him).

Me admiring the geology of this place.

It's hard to imagine that lava flowed freely through this tube at one time and we are now standing in it.

We found some pyrite.

Lots of other cave dwellers down here today.

Chad checking out the cave scene.

At the end of the lower cave it just keeps getting smaller until you can't go any further.

If it was the 80's this might make a cool break-dancing jacket.

The lower cave was really fantastic and suitable for just about any skill level of hiker.

Definitely bring two sources of light and extra batteries.

Despite being in a cave there was a lot of dripping water so a rain jacket is necessary too.


We didn't know you could just go past these stairs and on the other side is the upper cave trail. In fact you are only supposed to go in that direction since it is easier to climb up and climbing against the flow of traffic makes things somewhat difficult.

Instead we exited the cave and went up to the surface trail to the top entrance of the cave known as the skylight. This made the upper hike more challenging but nothing we couldn't handle.

Plenty of rain today.

Could this be the entrance, nope.

This is the entrance.

For some reason I kept thinking of the old Alice in Chains song "down in a hole" as appropriate for this hike.

Into the light.

This is a cool picture of light and rain flowing down into the cave.

Another look at the ladder exiting the skylight.

Lots of hikers coming up while we are going down. At one point we passed a boy scout troop with about 40 people.

Chad on the trail.

Some people were writing their names in the cave slime on the walls.

It was cold enough in the cave to see your breath.

A spot in the middle of the upper trail that is open to the surface but no exit. You wouldn't want to get hurt down here and have to be carried out.

Another look at the opening surface. We were thinking this would be a great place to take refuge during a storm in the old days.

Chad lets off some steam.

Chad works his way around a puddle of mud.

Some very small stalactites forming on the cave ceiling.

This little spot and one other one were a little difficult to get past. If we had been going up it would have been much easier but going down is always more difficult. We still managed to get past it with a couple rock climbing like moves.


Most of the upper cave was rock hopping like this with a few more difficult spots.

Let there be light! Finally we finished up the upper cave hike after a couple of hours of rock hopping. That was the longest half a mile I can ever remember hiking. Overall the hike was more challenging than either of us expected, and more spectacular. It wasn't super difficult, but no walk in the park either, more like a walk down a dark and damp lava tube. Caving in a Lava Tube wasn't on my bucketlist before today, but now it is and checked off in the same day. Maybe caving will be a new sport to explore.

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