The Best Caves in Washington, USA: Complete List

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Washington is the second most populous state in the west, after California. This state is the largest producer of various fruits including apples, blueberries, and pears. Well-known for being a place of great health and prosperity, there are also a wide variety of interesting caves found in Washington.

Washington and Colorado have both been frequent supporters of change and progress. With beautiful natural landscapes and also the most prominent mountain in the contiguous US, Mount Rainier, there are plenty sights to see when you visit.

In this article, we will cover some of the most popular and also exciting caves that you can find in Washington.

Ape Caves

Definitely one of the most interesting caves in Washington, we begin with the Ape Caves or Lava Tubes. Formed over 2000 years ago, the Ape Caves are the third longest lava tubes in North America.

As lava flowed down Mt. St. Helens (where the cave is located) it cooled, which would form an outer crust. This let the molten lava inside keep flowing, which created lava tubes. These lava tubes are unique for the area, as the volcanoes around it usually don’t have fluid lava able to make tubes like this.

Named after the Mt. St. Helens Apes, the Ape Caves are very chilly and dark. They are mostly easy to hike, as they are quite flat and spacious.

However, getting to the upper part of the cave can be very challenging. On top of having to climb an 8ft wall to get to it, the path has many twists, turns, and obstacles. Due to these factors, it’s best to bring shoes meant for hiking, a jacket, gloves, and a bright light source.

These caves are open to the public via permit, but the caves’ reservation team requests that the walls and ceiling of the caves stay untouched.

A person walks through the long lava tubes called Ape Caves, in Washington State.

Big Four Ice Caves

Located near the Big Four Mountain, these caves are one of the most notable and popular ice caves in Washington for their scenery and ever-changing atmosphere.

Created by melting snow and waterfalls from a nearby cliff, these caves are technically snow caves under an avalanche chute.

An image of the bright blue and white insides of the Big Four Ice Caves, in Washington by the Big Four Mountian.

Boulder Cave

Formed from lava and sediment hardening together and being eroded by a nearby creek, Boulder Cave is unique.

Here is a large home to Pacific Western Big-Eared bats, a sensitive species, that often hibernate there. Authorities keep the cave closed during the winter months in order to protect them. When visiting Boulder cave, please stay quiet and keep your flashlights pointed away from the ceiling, to not disturb the bats.

You’ll also find many formations that visitors are sure to love. There’s a stunning waterfall as well as scenic greenery, making for a relaxing atmosphere. At 400 feet deep and just 2 miles long, the cave is shaped more like a tunnel and is very dark.

An image shows the massive boulders that fell by the opening of Boulder Cave.

Cheese Cave

Another lava tube cave, the Cheese Cave is noteworthy for their cheese-making artifacts. The cave was first used by Joseph Arnie, a local resident, in 1894 to store potatoes and eventually cheese. The cave’s chilly 42 F temperature and dark lighting was perfect for cheese aging, so it was used for just that.

Guler Cheese Co. used the cave for many years, but the company eventually left the area, leaving behind things like storage racks.

The cave’s entrance is accompanied by a ladder and the rest of the cave is flat and wide, making exploring it pretty easy. It is recommended that you wear layers due to the cold temperatures in the cave, as well as a flashlight (lava caves are always very dark).

An image shows the inside of Cheese Cave, another of the lava tube caves in Washington.

Deadhorse Cave

Definitely one of the most adventurous caves on this list, Deadhorse Cave is well known for its challenging layout. Located near Trout Lake, it is the longest known lava tube cave in the contiguous United States.

This cave contains many infamously tight squeezes, crawls, and a maze-like level to top it all off. The cave is home to an artesian well and floods are often reported, so it tends to be muddy. Deadhorse Cave is definitely not for beginning spelunkers because of its confusing layout, so be sure to be well versed in caving or to bring along a partner who is.

Falls Creek Cave

Another lava tube cave, This cave is 1.4 miles long and located near Carson, Washington.

After passing its mossy entrance, Falls Creek has many boulders and crevices and sharp formations to maneuver around, making exploration decently difficult. The cave also has 3 collapsed sections as well as areas that are breaking down.

These portions can be challenging without proper gear, so be sure to bring things like gloves, sturdy shoes, a hard hat, rope, and first aid just in case. Just like any other lava tube cave, this one is dark and chilly, so also make sure to grab a jacket and flashlight.

A large dark tunnel is explored by a few cavers carrying glowsticks and backpacks. This is Falls Creek Cave, yet another of the lava tube caves in Washington.

Gardner Cave

Noteworthy for being the longest limestone cave in Washington, Gardner Cave is located in Crawford State Park.

The cave was first discovered in 1899 by Ed Gardener, a local bootlegger. He used the cave for moonshine storage due to its constant cold temperature of 39 F. Eventually Gardner lost the right to this land in a game of poker to William Crawford. Crawford opened the cave to the public in 1921.

This cave is home to many large groups of stalagmites and stalactites. Preserved for over 900 years, these formations are popular and even earned interesting names. You’ll learn about Frozen Waterfall, Christmas Tree, Roast Turkey, Lopsided Wedding Cake, Queens Throne, and The Frog. Gardner Cave is open from May to September.

An image shows the inside of the artificially-lit Gardner Cave, part of Crawford State Park in Washington.

Guler Ice Caves

The Guler Ice Caves are some of the coldest lava tubes in Washington. These caves’ cold temperatures were even used to make natural refrigerators for nearby pioneers in the 1800’s.

Thanks to the constant cold and dense winter air stuck in the cave, there are many stunning ice sculptures as well as stalagmites and stalactites that can be seen year-round. The caves can be accessed through stairs that lead into a dark pit, and are divided into four sections which are each separated by a collapsed part of the cave.

The inside of the Guler Ice Caves is covered in ice formations and a slippery ice sheet as a floor. In order to make sure you don’t slip on this floor, be sure to bring shoes with traction.

An image of the ice-based formations found inside the Guler Ice Caves in Washington.

Tree Root Cave

Also known as the Tree of Life or the Kalaloch Tree of Life, this cave is popular for the massive Sitka Spruce clinging to its entrance thanks to its long, big roots.

Many visitors have expected the tree on top of the cave to fall over the years because of wind, rain, or just decomposition, but the tree has remained strong. Due to this and the tree remaining healthy despite the soil below it not having many nutrients, some see the tree as mystical and even supernatural, leading to its name.

Inside of the cave is a small stream, which runs into the ocean nearby. This cave is located near the beach, so temperatures tend to be warm. The inside of the cave is flat and spacious, so it is easy to explore.

A massive tree and the root network is visible at the opening of Tree Root Cave, shown in its entirety here.


As you can see, there are some fascinating caves that form from volcanoes like the ones in Washington. While it’s relatively safe to go exploring in lava tubes, it’s important to have the necessary gear and preparation just like with any wild caves.

When you’re finished exploring the Washington caves, though, you may want to try some of the neighboring states afterward. Try these two states next:

Idaho Caves

Oregon Caves

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