While it was the north side of Mount St Helens that blew out in the 1980 eruption and that’s where several viewpoints and visitor centers are, the south side has some things going on too.
Ape Cave is the third longest lava tube in North America. It’s not from the 1980 eruption, but is 1,900 years old. No, Apes did not live here. It was named for an outdoor club, The Mount St Helens Apes, who found and explored it in the 1950’s. The tube is over a mile long, we hiked part of it. It’s pitch black dark in there and we didn’t have good enough flashlights to continue much distance. Too dark for any more pictures. There were very few other people there as this a week day in the off season.
Nearby is the Trail of Two Forests. A boardwalk takes us through a younger forest around a 1,900 year old lava flow that shows evidence of an ancient forest. Big holes remain where the lava flowed around the trees and cooled, then the burnt trees eventually deteriorated.
Even more interesting is where the lava flowed over fallen trees before it cooled. As the trees burnt and deteriorated they left tunnels in their shape. In a few points here you can climb down into one of the “tunnels” and crawl in the dark about 20 to 30 feet to the other end. We passed on that.
On the road back we stopped at a roadside pullout to get this picture of the south side of Mount St Helens.
- Gasoline: none
- Lodging: $35