We’re all about unique hikes, whether you want to see wildflowers or check out ghost towns, there are tons of trails to explore in Washington. But what about heading underground? Washington’s Ape Cave is calling and it just so happens to be the third-longest lava tube in North America.

In settler history, Ape Cave was discovered by a logger in 1947 and later explored by a scout troop in the 1950s. While relatively recently discovered, this cave has actually been around for a long time. It formed about 2,000 years ago during one of Mount St Helen’s eruptions and may have had lava flowing through it for a whole year.

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These days you don’t have to worry about lava as the cave is a heavily trafficked part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. If you’re brave enough you can explore the 2.5 miles of caves. You’ll walk along a chilly, pitch-black corridor deep beneath the forest floor. Best of all is that you can choose between the 3/4 mile long Lower Cave for an easier trek or the 1.5 mile Upper Cave which involves some navigation over rock piles and scaling an 8-foot rock wall for a true cave experience.


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Cave visits are typically a minimum of an hour and a maximum of a few hours depending on where you choose to explore. That being said, timed reservations are required to the cave during the open season. In order to do so, visit recreation.gov and select a two-hour time slot for your desired day. Keep in mind there is a $2 admin fee.


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You’ll need to come prepared with your own headlamps or flashlights as there are no lights in the cave. You’ll also definitely want to bring layers as the cave temperature is 42 degrees year-round.

Keep in mind, the cave closes on October 1st so you’ll need to visit this gem between now and September 30th if you’d like to explore it this year. Have fun down there folks!

Ape Cave

Where: Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Information on Ape Cave is from the United States Forest Service and is accurate as of the publication date.