We drove to Washington to visit Mt. St. Helens and also to explore lava tubes! These lava tubes in Washington (in Trail of Two Forests) are great for kids to explore and climb through! They’re easy to find and make a great underground playground for anyone brave enough to check it out!
On our way to Ape Caves we decided to make a quick stop at the Trail of Two Forests hiking area. We really had no idea what to expect but found it to be a hidden gem in Washington that we were thrilled to discover!
It’s also a fantastic spot that doesn’t take long to explore but allows you to stretch your legs and marvel at nature’s beauty.
What are Lava Tubes?
Lava tubes are literally “tubes” or voids formed by flowing lava beneath the surface. This flow drains lava from a volcano (during an eruption) and then cools forming a cave like tube.
Where is the Trail of Two Forests located?
The Trail of Two Forests is located near Cougar, Washington on your way to Ape Caves from Portland or Seattle.
We didn’t even know about this location and accidentally discovered it on the way to hike in Ape Caves. I absolutely recommend stopping no matter whether you have a car full of kids or adults! In fact I wish we’d had a little more time to explore the trails than just popping in by accident.
One thing you’ll notice right away is the amazing greenery and unique geological formations. The hiking trails were on solid boardwalks appropriate for all abilities. The boardwalks winded around these crazy “hole in the ground” features. I swear a troll or Teletubby was going to pop right up out of these holes!
Why is it called the Trail of Two Forests?:
The boardwalk trail runs through two forests that stand side by side, but are separated in age by 2000 years. One forest is old-growth Douglas-fir and the other is a young forest of western red-cedar originally engulfed by lava flows from an eruption of Mount St. Helens. This forest has three-dimensional imprints of trees in the old lava beds called lava casts creating an incredible texture to the landscape.
I was so intrigued I wish I had more time to take in the unique sites…..instead I was trying to slow down my kids who were VERY eager to be out of the car running around!
Crawling Inside the Lava Tube:
That is, until we came across this. A hole in the ground with a ladder down into it is practically an invitation for any curious teenager or kid. When I read on the display guide that there are areas to “test your experience” in a lava tube before hiking in Ape Cave this wasn’t quite what I was expecting! Don’t get me wrong – it was AWESOME but nothing like hiking in Ape Cave!
We decided you only live once and the 5 of us had so many adventures on our 9000 mile road trip and this lava tube would be no different! Down into the depths the 5 of us went. If you’re claustraphobic – DO NOT GO. As you’ll notice below it’s tight, but not scary tight……unless you’re claustraphobic! We took our 4 year old with us who had no problems navigating these tunnels and ladder. Heck I even made it through with my Nikon DSLR camera!
Who ever thought it was a great idea to just climb around in holes in the earth had way too much time on their hands, but these lava tubes are something else! Formed from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, it’s truly an amazing experience. We’ve been all over the United States and crawling through lava tubes in the Trail of Two Forests was incredible.
I’m not so sure my husband was as thrilled about the experience as we were but he was a good sport! You definitely need to be mobile to make it through these tubes. It’s similar to crawling through a restaurant playplace…..just harder on the knees because of the rock. Although I was able to scootch along on my feet most of the time.
I’d probably recommend those much over 250 pounds not try to fit down inside the lava tubes unless you don’t mind scraping by in a few areas.
Like I mentioned, crawling through the lava tubes in the Trail of Two Forests is absolutely nothing like hiking in Ape Caves….except that they were both formed by lava. So don’t fret if you end up here first!
The entire experience only lasts a few minutes to get through – look how happy the kids are! I just loved the green moss covering everything in the forest and how noticeable cooler it was while inside the lava tubes.