Nature abounds in the Evergreen State, so there's more than one breathtaking natural wonder waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. One such marvel is the lava cave in Washington, where you can hike underground through an actual lava tube, one of the longest in North America. 

Ape Caves in the Mount St. Helens National Monument, Washington is over two miles long and was formed over 2,000 years ago! 

You can hike this 2.8-mile cave year-round, although some roads and parking lots may be closed in winter due to snow. If closed, you'll have to trek a mile longer to the cave. A Washington State Sno-Park permit is also required to park and you'll need to purchase one ahead. 

The 13,042-foot tube was formed when lava streamed down St. Helens, a volcanic mountain, creating tunnels. 

It's pitch dark in here, and if you're wary of bats, this isn't the place for you. Tales of sasquatch or Bigfoot-sightings have also been doing the rounds for decades, but the fragile formations were discovered by scout troopers in the 1950s. 

There are two entrances to the cave. While the parking lot leads to the lower entrance, the trail continues on to the upper entrance which becomes steep and rough. 

The moderate hike involves scrambling on rocks, through very narrow spaces and requires you to be physically fit.

It can get pretty wet and chilly — around 42°F throughout the year, so prepare to dress cozy and to slip into your sturdiest shoes.

Be sure to bring along more than two flashlights, a headlight and extra batteries per person to discover the cave's secrets. 

Food and beverages, pets, flares, fireworks, and firearms aren't allowed inside the cave. Collecting or damaging rocks is also fined with $200. So be sure to respect the environment, pick up after yourselves, and to allow others to enjoy this beauty too.  

Today, you'll be in awe of what nature has done with the fiery lava. — Stalactites and stalagmites are scattered and climbers can even scale an 8-foot lava fall!

There's also an enchanting skylight halfway through the hike, allowing you to see the first natural light since you entered the cave. 

While Washington is known for its natural delights — the bluest of waters and immortal trees to enchanting rainforests and breathtaking waterfalls, this exploration is a bucket-list item for nature lovers and adventure-seekers alike. 

Ape Caves

Price: A Northwest Forest Pass, America the Beautiful Pass or $5 fee is required to park. Sno-Park permit is required in winters.

Location: Cougar, Washington 

Why You Should Go: You can hike in an actual LAVA tube, one of the biggest ones in the whole of North America!


We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.