Trip Report: Ape Cave
Trip Report: Ape Cave
Location: Ape Cave, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Conditions: Overcast with 7-9 inches of snow on the ground
Drive: 1.30 one-way
Hike/Cave: 2-4 hours (really depends on pace and conditions)
Total: Definitely a nice day trip anywhere from 5-7 hours including the drive.
easy-moderate: The hike itself isn't very difficult, but the portion of the hike spend in the cave can be a slow pace since you will only have a headlamp to light your way. It is also quite rocky with one section of the cave requiring you to climb up and over a 7 foot tall portion of the extinct lava flow (picture will be included) So some of the hiking is easy and other portions of it are moderate.
The Full Report:
Ape Cave was one of the last day hikes I wanted to get in before the winter season. This was not because I wouldn't want to go to the cave in the winter, the cave is open year-round, however, I had not at that point acquired all of my winter gear. Regardless of my desires to hike the caves in dry conditions, nature decided to bring some early snow that blanketed the Ape Cave area as well as many other areas in the Pacific Northwest. I was unprepared, to say the least, but my lack of preparation didn't hinder my ability to enjoy the cave and its beauty.
The Ape Cave hike is a 2.8 miles round trip hike. The actual length of the trip is dependent on how you decide to break down your trip. The cave itself is not far away from the parking area so you could easily make it a short trip if you just wanted to hang out in the cave a little bit and then leave. There are actually two separate areas you can go in the cave. One path in the cave is shorter than the other. I personally went through the longer lava tube which eventually leads you out of the cave and on to a trail that takes you back to the parking area. This is all to say there is really no right way or wrong way to do the cave. You can either start with the cave and end with the hike back or you can start with the hike and end with the cave, it’s totally preferential. The hike is usually heavy trafficked, although when we went we only saw a few other people which might have been due to the winter conditions.
If you are a geology nerd like I am you will be fascinated by the cave and its formation. You will also be impressed with the length of the lava tube. It’s the third largest in North America! If you are thinking about heading out to the cave sometime soon just make sure you check the weather and prepare accordingly. Bring water, snacks, and whatever else you think you'll need for a day out. Also, be SURE that you bring some form of ILLUMINATION. it is very very difficult to enjoy a cave without any light to see it all.
The Ape Cave headquarters is another useful resource to use on your way to the cave. They can help with any questions you may have, and they also rent lanterns for $5, however the headquarters is closed during the winter season.
In the winter season December 1st-March 31st, make sure that when you go to the caves that you display a Washington State Sno-Park permit. These are not available at the site, so purchase them prior to arrival. Oregon Snow Park Permits are no longer accepted. When the winter season is over a Northwest forest pass should be displayed.