Ape Cave Trail No. 239 In Washington

Here is everything you need to know about the Ape Cave Trail No. 239:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Washington
  • Length: 3.5 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/gwj/recarea/?recid=73942

The Ape Cave Trail No. 239, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, holds a significant place in the region’s history. The trail is named after the Ape Caves, which are a series of lava tubes formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. These lava tubes were created when molten lava flowed from Mount St. Helens and cooled on the surface while the inner layers continued to flow, eventually leaving behind a hollow tube.

The Ape Cave Trail No. 239 gained its name from a local hiking club called the Mount St. Helens Apes, who were the first to explore and document the caves in the early 1950s. The club members named the caves after their group, and the name stuck. The Ape Caves quickly gained popularity among outdoor enthusiasts and became a popular destination for hikers and spelunkers.

In 1980, the eruption of Mount St. Helens had a significant impact on the Ape Cave Trail No. 239. The eruption caused massive devastation in the surrounding area, including the destruction of forests and alteration of the landscape. The eruption also deposited a thick layer of ash and debris, which covered the trail and the entrance to the Ape Caves. However, with time, the trail was cleared, and the caves were reopened to the public, allowing visitors to once again explore this unique geological wonder.

Today, the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 continues to attract visitors from all over the world. It serves as a reminder of the powerful volcanic activity that shaped the landscape of the Pacific Northwest and offers a glimpse into the region’s geological history. The trail provides an opportunity for hikers to experience the awe-inspiring lava tubes and learn about the natural forces that have shaped the area for thousands of years.

While On The Trail

Access Points

The major access points or trailheads along the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 are:

1. Ape Cave Upper Trailhead: This is the main trailhead for the Ape Cave Trail. It is located near the parking lot and offers easy access to the upper section of the cave.

2. Ape Cave Lower Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the parking lot as well, but it provides access to the lower section of the cave. It is a popular starting point for those who want to explore the entire length of the cave.

3. Ape Canyon Trailhead: This trailhead is located about 1.5 miles east of the Ape Cave Trailhead. It is the starting point for the Ape Canyon Trail, which offers a scenic hike through the blast zone of Mount St. Helens.

4. Lava Canyon Trailhead: This trailhead is located about 3 miles east of the Ape Cave Trailhead. It is the starting point for the Lava Canyon Trail, which takes hikers through a narrow canyon with stunning views of lava formations and waterfalls.

These are the major access points or trailheads along the Ape Cave Trail No. 239.

Transportation Available

1. Mount St. Helens Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from Ape Cave Trail.
2. Uber – On-demand ride-hailing service available in the area.
3. Lyft – Ride-sharing service offering transportation options near Ape Cave Trail.
4. Taxi Services – Local taxi companies providing transportation services in the vicinity.
5. Rental Cars – Various car rental agencies offering vehicles for self-drive near Ape Cave Trail.
6. Public Bus – Local bus service with routes passing by or near Ape Cave Trail.
7. Bike Rentals – Bicycle rental shops providing bikes for exploring the area around Ape Cave Trail.
8. Private Tours – Guided tour companies offering transportation and guided experiences near Ape Cave Trail.
9. Airport Shuttles – Shuttle services providing transportation to and from nearby airports.
10. Walking – A viable option for those staying in close proximity to Ape Cave Trail.


The amenities available at the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 may vary, but typically include:

1. Restrooms: There are usually restroom facilities available at the trailhead or nearby parking area.

2. Parking: There is a designated parking area for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Ape Cave Trail No. 239 does not have designated camping sites. However, there may be nearby campgrounds or camping areas where visitors can stay overnight.

4. Picnic Areas: There may be picnic areas or designated spots along the trail where visitors can have a picnic or enjoy a meal.

5. Visitor Center: Some trails have a visitor center or information center where visitors can obtain maps, brochures, and learn more about the trail and its surroundings.

6. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there may be interpretive signs providing information about the geological features, flora, fauna, and history of the area.

7. Benches or Seating Areas: There may be benches or seating areas along the trail where visitors can rest or take in the scenery.

8. Trail Markers: The trail is usually marked with signs or markers to guide visitors and prevent them from getting lost.

It is recommended to check with the local park or forest service for the most up-to-date information on the amenities available at the Ape Cave Trail No. 239.

Nearby Services

1. Silver Lake Resort – Lakeside lodging with stunning views of Silver Lake.
2. Seaquest State Park – Campground and RV sites near the trailhead, offering basic amenities.
3. Toutle River RV Resort – Full-service RV resort with various amenities and riverfront views.
4. Castle Rock Motel – Budget-friendly motel with comfortable rooms and easy access to the trail.
5. The Empress Estate – Elegant bed and breakfast with luxurious accommodations and beautiful gardens.
6. Mt. St. Helens RV Resort – RV park with full hookups and scenic surroundings.
7. North Fork Survivors – Local food truck offering delicious meals near the trail.
8. The Castle Rock Bakery & Coffee Company – Cozy bakery and coffee shop serving fresh pastries and beverages.
9. El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant – Authentic Mexican cuisine with a casual atmosphere.
10. Castle Rock Fire Department – Local emergency services available for any unforeseen incidents.

Ape Cave Trail No. 239 Difficulty Notes

The Ape Cave Trail No. 239 is known for its challenging difficulty level, making it a popular choice for experienced hikers seeking a thrilling adventure. This 2.2-mile underground lava tube hike in Washington State requires physical endurance, as it involves navigating through uneven terrain, boulders, and narrow passages. The trail also features low ceilings, requiring hikers to crouch or crawl at times. Additionally, the darkness of the cave adds an extra level of difficulty, as hikers must rely on headlamps or flashlights to navigate through the pitch-black environment. Despite its challenges, the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 offers a unique and exhilarating experience for those seeking a more demanding hiking adventure.

Features And Attractions

The Ape Cave Trail No. 239 is located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. While the trail itself is known for its unique lava tube cave, there are several scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks in the surrounding area. Here are some notable ones:

1. Mount St. Helens: The Ape Cave Trail is located near Mount St. Helens, an active stratovolcano known for its devastating eruption in 1980. The mountain offers stunning views and is a significant natural landmark in the region.

2. Lava Canyon: Lava Canyon is a nearby hiking trail that showcases the effects of the Mount St. Helens eruption. It features a stunning waterfall, lava formations, and a suspension bridge.

3. Ape Canyon: Ape Canyon is a deep gorge located near the Ape Cave Trail. It is known for its scenic beauty and unique geological features. The canyon offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

4. Plains of Abraham: The Plains of Abraham is an open area near the Ape Cave Trail that was formed by a massive landslide during the Mount St. Helens eruption. It offers a unique and eerie landscape with remnants of the volcanic activity.

5. Ape Cave Lava Tube: The main attraction of the Ape Cave Trail is the Ape Cave Lava Tube itself. It is the third-longest lava tube in North America, stretching over 2 miles. Visitors can explore the cave’s dark and fascinating interior, which features unique lava formations.

6. Trail of Two Forests: The Trail of Two Forests is another nearby attraction that showcases the effects of the Mount St. Helens eruption. It features a short loop trail with remnants of petrified trees and lava molds.

7. Windy Ridge Viewpoint: Windy Ridge Viewpoint is located near the Ape Cave Trail and offers breathtaking views of Mount St. Helens. It provides a close-up look at the volcano’s crater and the surrounding landscape.

8. Meta Lake: Meta Lake is a picturesque alpine lake located near the Ape Cave Trail. It offers a serene setting for picnicking, fishing, and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

These are just a few of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks that can be found along the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 and its surrounding area.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets are allowed on the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 but must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Visitors are required to pack out all trash and waste.
– Camping or overnight stays are not permitted inside the cave.
– The trail is open year-round, but during winter months, it may be icy and slippery. Visitors are advised to use caution and appropriate footwear.
– The cave can be cold and damp, so it is recommended to bring warm clothing and a flashlight or headlamp for better visibility.
– Visitors are not allowed to remove or disturb any natural formations, rocks, or artifacts within the cave.
– It is important to stay on the designated trail and not venture off into unauthorized areas.
– The Ape Cave Trail No. 239 is a popular destination, so visitors are encouraged to practice Leave No Trace principles and be respectful of other hikers.

Seasonal Information

The Ape Cave Trail No. 239, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, offers a unique and thrilling underground adventure. When planning a visit to this fascinating lava tube, it is important to consider the best times of the year to go and any seasonal closures.

The best time to visit the Ape Cave Trail is during the summer months, from June to September. This is when the weather is most favorable, with mild temperatures and less chance of rain. Exploring the cave during this time allows for a comfortable experience, as the cave maintains a constant temperature of around 42°F (5.5°C) year-round. The summer months also offer longer daylight hours, providing ample time to fully explore the cave and its various passages.

It is worth noting that the Ape Cave Trail may have seasonal closures due to safety concerns or maintenance work. It is advisable to check with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest or the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument for any closures or restrictions before planning your visit. These closures are typically in place during the winter months, from October to May, when the cave can become hazardous due to icy conditions or heavy snowfall. It is important to prioritize safety and respect any closures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Overall, the best time to visit the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 is during the summer months when the weather is pleasant and the cave is accessible. By planning your visit accordingly and staying informed about any seasonal closures, you can make the most of your underground adventure and explore the wonders of this unique lava tube.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Ape Cave Trail No. 239 is not wheelchair accessible due to its rugged terrain and lack of designated accessible features.
2. ADA Accommodations: The trail does not have specific ADA accommodations such as accessible parking, restrooms, or interpretive materials for individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

1. Stay on the designated trail – Stick to the marked path to avoid getting lost or damaging the fragile cave environment.
2. Wear appropriate footwear and clothing – Sturdy shoes and warm clothing are essential for navigating the rocky terrain and cool temperatures inside the cave.
3. Bring multiple light sources – Ensure you have backup flashlights or headlamps in case of equipment failure.
4. Carry extra batteries – Keep spare batteries handy to avoid being left in the dark.
5. Stay with your group – It’s important to stick together to prevent anyone from getting lost or separated.
6. Watch your step – Be cautious of uneven surfaces, loose rocks, and low ceilings inside the cave.
7. Be aware of potential hazards – Look out for slippery surfaces, falling rocks, and low-hanging formations.
8. Avoid touching cave formations – Preserve the delicate cave features by refraining from touching or damaging them.
9. Be mindful of wildlife – Respect the natural habitat and avoid disturbing any animals you may encounter.
10. Inform someone of your plans – Let a trusted person know about your trip, including your expected return time.
11. Carry necessary supplies – Bring water, snacks, and any other essentials to sustain yourself during the hike.
12. Be prepared for emergencies – Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it in case of injuries.
13. Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, especially in the dry cave environment.
14. Follow all posted signs and regulations – Adhere to any specific rules or guidelines provided by park authorities.
15. Check weather conditions – Be aware of any potential storms or adverse weather conditions that may affect your safety.
16. Stay calm in case of emergencies – Maintain composure and follow proper procedures if faced with unexpected situations.
17. Respect the cave environment – Avoid littering, graffiti, or any actions that may harm the natural beauty of the cave.
18. Plan your visit during less crowded times – Consider visiting during weekdays or off-peak hours to avoid overcrowding.
19. Be cautious of your physical abilities – Assess your fitness level and any health conditions before attempting the trail.
20. Stay updated on current information – Check for any trail closures, updates, or advisories before heading out.

Conservation Notes

The Ape Cave Trail No. 239, located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, is considered to be in good conservation status. The trail is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and is part of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. As a designated National Volcanic Monument, the area is protected and managed to preserve its natural and cultural resources.

Efforts have been made to maintain the ecological integrity of the Ape Cave Trail. The trail is regularly monitored and maintained to ensure that it remains safe and accessible for visitors while minimizing impacts on the surrounding environment. This includes regular inspections of the trail condition, removal of fallen trees or debris, and repair of any erosion or damage caused by natural processes or human use.

To protect the unique geological features and fragile ecosystem within the cave, certain regulations are in place. Visitors are required to stay on the designated trail and are prohibited from touching or removing any cave formations. This helps to prevent damage to the delicate cave environment and ensures that future generations can also enjoy the natural wonders of the Ape Cave.

Overall, the conservation status of the Ape Cave Trail No. 239 is considered to be well-managed and protected. The efforts put into maintaining the trail and preserving the cave’s natural features contribute to the long-term sustainability of this unique ecosystem.

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