10 AM – ~12 PM Beaverton ➡ Ape Cave, Cougar, WA (Google Maps 1h 45m, http://bit.ly/2qVz5f1)
Allow two hours for stopping in Cougar, WA for anyone that might be hungry.
2 PM – 3 PM: Hike the lower cave (~1 hour)
3 PM – 6 PM: Hike the upper ape cave (~3 hours for the inexperienced)
6 PM – ~8 PM Ape Cave, Cougar, WA ➡ Beaverton
Yelp lists a single restaurant available in Cougar, WA (http://bit.ly/2qVlEvO), The Cougar Bar & Grill, which is only ~16 minutes from the Ape Caves (http://bit.ly/2qVEQJJ). Yelp does list several other restaurants around Cougar, WA, but not directly within.
“During the summer, a Northwest Forest Parking Pass is required – $5/day” (http://bit.ly/2qUZfyK)
[x] Bottled Water
[x] Head Lamps
[x] Extra Flash Lights (there is a good chance of losing hand held flash lights, see below)
* No food, beverages, alcohol or littering.
* No smoking, No flares, fireworks, firearms or any kind of open flame
* No rock collecting or damaging cave features ($200 fine).
* No pets!
* Do not touch the walls
* Cave “slime” lives on the cave walls and is an important food source for cave life.
“An unlit, “wild” collection of natural lava tubes, 2.5 miles long (the longest in the U.S.), explored by lantern or flashlight by hardy, flexible adventurers.” (RoadsideAmerica, http://bit.ly/2qVrywW)
Lower Cave (Easy, 1 Hour)
“The lower Ape Cave is approximately is .75 miles long and can be hiked down and back in an hour” (MountStHelens Information Resource Center, http://bit.ly/2qVkYXb)
Upper Cave (Adventurous, 2.5 Hours)
“The upper Ape Cave is 1½-mile long and takes about 2½ hours to complete, returning on a surface trail. This section is more adventurous as cavers must climb over approximately 27 boulder piles and scale an 8-foot high lava fall.” (MountStHelens Information Resource Center, http://bit.ly/2qV5QZP)
“It’s very dark and cold – you will need light! Also bring a sweatshirt and good sturdy shoes; you will get hot on your way through so you can always just tie your sweatshirt around your waist. There are two ways to venture — one is harder than the other but both are great. Remember to always watch your step and rest when needed. Once you get to the end, you climb up a ladder into the beautiful forest. You will have a decent hike back.” (RoadsideAmerica, http://bit.ly/2qVrywW)
“This is actually part of Mt. St. Helens National Park. You can rent big gas lanterns for the easy path, or flashlights for the hard path. The easy route is paved; The hard path feels like you’re climbing into the Gates of Hell. It’s about a mile of underground travel, clambering over boulders and up sheer rock walls. No path is marked and you’re never really sure if you’re going the right way or if you’re just going to disappear forever in the bowels of a dormant volcano. They recommend that you take two or three flashlights if you take the hard route, and when I dropped one of mine off a ten-foot rock ledge, I was glad I listened.
Some parts are like climbing over an avalanche, others are smooth and wide-open as a highway tunnel. Sometimes the lava hardened while flowing and is permanently in liquid ripples. I felt like I was in the giant ant tunnels in the movie “THEM!” Everything is damp and eerily silent.” (RoadsideAmerica, http://bit.ly/2qVrywW)
“The Apes that give their name to the two lava tubes found outside of Mt St Helens were not primates at all, they were the members of a 1950s outdoor club who explored the massive tubes. They called themselves the Mount St. Helens Apes, and the lava tubes became known as their caves. The tubes are long tunnels in the thick lava beds; they run roughly parallel to the surface of the land. The lower tube is the easier one of the two to hike because of its relatively flat, gentle slope. The upper tube is larger and much rockier and is hiked by the more adventurous of cavers due to the approximately 27 boulder piles and an 8-foot high lava fall that can be scaled in this section. It is not possible to hike the caves entire length because of the small space that separates the two sections. Even in the summer, the tubes were a constant, cool 42 degrees, so if planning a trip to hike the caves, remember to pack a jacket and a good flashlight or lantern. There are many places in the cave that never see the sunlight.” (http://bit.ly/2qVoDnG)
MountStHelens.com Information Resource Center