Ape Cave Interpretive Site, located near Mount St. Helens in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, will reopen to the public on May 18, according to a news release from the U.S. Forest Service. It’s been closed since last spring, when it shuttered along with many local hiking areas in response to COVID-19. The Forest Service also completed a toilet improvement project during the closure.
According to guidance from the Forest Service, visitors will now need to make advance reservations to visit the popular lava tube routes. Timed reservation tickets became available April 29 on recreation.gov, when the Forest Service released 70% of the tickets at 7 a.m. The rest of the reservations will be available on a rolling basis, released three days in advance of their intended use. Tickets are free, but visitors will need to pay $2 for processing.
Reservations are available in two-hour timeslots between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Only one ticket per vehicle is required, but visitors must also have a Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass for day-use access to the site.
The Forest Service implemented the reservation system “to provide a quality visitor experience, to protect the delicate cave ecosystem and natural resources, and to provide for public safety by reducing visitor congestion in the area.”
Due to poor reception at Ape Cave, the Forest Service recommends hikers purchase tickets before arriving. Reservations will not be available onsite.