Ape Cave Trail

#1 of 279 trails in Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Ape Cave Trail is a 2.6 mile out and back trail that features a cave and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking & walking and is accessible year-round.

2.66 miles Out & Back 200 feet
Kid Friendly
hiking walking cave kids old growth
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From Vancouver, WA, north on 1-5 to Highway 503, exit 21. Drive east 35 miles to Forest Service Road 83. Turn left and drive 2 miles to Forest Service Road 8303. Turn left and drive 1.5 miles to the trailhead on the right.

Aja Hantel

4 Completed3 Reviews

We started the trail around 10am. The weather was nice and cool which I love on hikes since you get sweaty. It was myself and 3 friends. We started at the main entrance to the caves close to the parking area. Descending was cool, the caves are colder than the outside temp and you can feel the cold breeze. We did the Lower Cave first since it is the shortest. It is fairly easy, no real obstacles. It is hard because the ground is uneven and you have to constantly watch where you step so you don't mess up an ankle. For this cave a hand flashlight is okay. I had a flashlight and headlamp so I was able to see fairly good. Once we reached the end of the Lower Cave we turned around and headed for the upper. We decided to go straight into the Upper Caves instead of surfacing and hiking above ground.

The Upper Cave definitely was harder for us. It seemed to go on forever with lots of boulder obstacles and a couple of times you have to spider climb up walls. For this I HIGHLY RECOMMEND A HEADLAMP because you need your hands free to navigate the boulders. You find yourself watching your step a lot. By the end I was soaked in sweat and a sore, I'm not that fit myself so I expected it. One companion is bigger and she completed it with us, I was proud of her. My other 2 companions were fairly fit and did the hike fine. I was happy that they were just as sweaty and tired as me. The walk back above ground was refreshing with light rain and wind.

Lower Cave: Easy, good for children. Can use flashlight or headlamp. Light layers because you will warm up as you move. Recommend bringing water.
Upper Cave: Harder difficulty. Headlamp for sure. Light layers you can strip off if you get hot. I didn't mind doing everything in a long sleeved tshirt, put on my sweatshirt above ground. It is damp in the caves so water does drip on you, some places have cold air running through, some have stale air. Recommend a Camel-pack full of water to help hydrate you because you will get sweaty. If you have gloves they help. I didn't have them and my hands and knees got muddy and a little scraped and knees bruised from climbing around. Nothing bad though.

Overall great to experience, took us about 5 hours for the whole cave and hike back. We did take our time in the upper cave to be safe and explore a bit. Watch out for other people if it is busy, there were several groups of younger people when we went, they weren't much for watching where they were going and didn't have the patience to wait for you. Many times I had to stop and just let them pass because they would just barrel past you otherwise.


Craig Cardon

1 Completed1 Reviews

Took a youth group to through the Upper Caves. Very cool hike. It was a cold rainy day so there was not a lot of other people in the caves which was good because our group, of 20 boys, was fairly noisy. The kids really enjoyed the hike and none of them had any trouble making it all the way. There was a fair amount of scrambling, but nothing too intense. Highly recommend a headlamp and not just a flashlight. Even though it was very cool in the caves the kids found themselves taking off their heavy coats. We were fortunate to not have any injuries but it is something you want to prepare for. A sprained ankle is a real possibility and could cause a lot of problems in making your way out.

Daniel Barlow

3 Completed2 Reviews

Adam Wilson

14 Completed14 Reviews

We did the upper cave in about an hour and a half, moving pretty quick. It's surreal, like nothing else on the planet. If you have the chance to do this, do it.

The upper cave is a Class 2 scramble, and hands are often necessary. You'll need a headlamp and sturdy boots, and a helmet would be a good safeguard but isn't exactly necessary. Bring extra batteries and a light jacket, as the temp in the cave is 43-ish degrees year-round.

The rock is sharp. This means your footholds are usually very grippy, and a fall can easily mean blood. Bring a first aid kit.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend the upper cave to kids, but if your kids are 6+ and able to scramble over rocks and navigate tricky footholds, then go for it.

Last but not least, don't be a jerk. There is a lot of trash and vandalism in certain parts of the cave. Pick up and pack out what you can, and do NOT leave trash, urinate, defecate or smoke in the cave. You'd think this was obvious, but we saw evidence of all of the above.

Shyloe Neizman

10 Completed2 Reviews

Shane Silvey

17 Completed17 Reviews

It's very dark and nothing but rocks. You will have to scramble up and down rocks and this takes a long time in the upper part. You will need a good light source. The lower section is an easy walk but the upper part is the hard one. After hiking out, you will need to hike through the woods back to the parking lot. Overall, it is a great experience and takes much longer than you would think it would.

Travis Chamberlain

1 Completed1 Reviews

It was good for family hiking. Wouldn't recommend if you have bad knees.

Shana Kirk

2 Completed2 Reviews

The Lowe cave was neat to see but nothing exciting. We chose not to go all the way to the dead end though. The upper caves was more challenging and fun for my girls (7 & 10). It t ok use about 2 hours to climbs over all the rock piles. I don't think I would take kids much younger than that in the upper caves. It can me a little tricky climbing at times. head lamps are a must!!! It makes it easier when climbing to have both hands free! I would recommend this cave to do at least once. It is a neat experience.

Rebecca Graham

5 Completed2 Reviews

Shae M.

I'd give it ten stars if I could, this is definitely a pretty memorable hike. However, we took the harder path and I did underestimate it. There were many boulders to climb over, areas to squeeze through, and a wall we actually had to climb over, though if you walk the outside trail to the end of the cave and enter from there, you'll be climbing down rather than up the wall.. I also noticed a difference in altitude which took a minute for me to adjust to, but the rest in my party hardly noticed.
Caves are cold, damp, and 100% dark. Headlamp is probably wisest seeing as I needed my hands to climb over things and the flashlight became a nuisance.
***Extra batteries!!

Love this hike.