Washington Hiking, Nature October 21, 2016
The 2.5 Mile Hike In Washington That’s Unlike Any Other In The World
Washington is a hiker’s paradise. You’ll find diverse, challenging, and beautiful hikes in every part of our state… and just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll find something like Skamania County’s Ape Cave Trail. This fascinating hike includes a trek through the 2.5 mile Ape Cave, the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States.
The Ape Cave Trail is located on the south side of Mount Saint Helens.
From I-5, you’ll take exit 21, head north and east on State Route 503, and continue straight on Spur 503. At 31 miles, Spur 503 becomes Forest Road 90. In 2.5 miles, take a left on FR 83, then a left on FR 8303. You’ll eventually reach the parking lot and the Ape Headquarters Center.
The trail itself is rated as moderate and isn’t extremely difficult, but you’ll want to be aware of the conditions.
This hike involves a journey through a dark 42 degree cave. You’ll want to bring sweatshirts and plenty of outerwear, head lamps or lanterns, flashlights and spare batteries. No pets, smoking or food are allowed in the cave.
Head into the Upper Cave for a longer, more challenging experience.
The upper portion of the lava tube requires more time, caution and agility to explore. You’ll have to climb over several large rock piles while trying not to slip or bump your head.
If the Upper Cave is too rugged, check out the Lower Cave.
It’s a more broad lava tube that descends gently. The floor is flat, and it’s an easier walk.
Ape Cave was formed about 2,000 years ago from lava streaming down Mount Saint Helens.
As the outer edges cooled into a hardened crust, the inner molten lava drained away before it hardened and left the tube.
The cave is named after its first explorers.
A logger discovered the cave in 1950 and quickly told his spelunker friend. A small group of them explored the cave, calling themselves the Mount Saint Helens Apes. The name stuck.
Have one more outdoor adventure this season, or put this experience on your list for next year.
Would you hike through Ape Cave? What about crossing the nearby swinging bridge?
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