Explore the most popular hiking trails near Cougar with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

great hike. Wife is a beginner but had great time. Lush wood made for cool hiking

hiking
2 days ago

Well marked trail and a change up from the normal adventures around Mount St Helens

This hike really impressed us. We were looking for something a little bit different than the usual mountain hikes were used to, so we decided to give this trail a try. We really enjoyed that the trail was unique, in that you’re quite literally traversing down a canyon adjacent to magnificent gushing water and waterfalls. We enjoyed the views most on the lower portion of the trail, and especially loved the ladders...just got a kick out of those! All in all, we loved it and would definitely do it again!

There are 2 levels to this cave. The main tube (I think it's the lower cave) is really easy walk. We got bored with it and turned around. The other level ( upper cave) is pretty rough. The Rangers said that it is for more experienced cavers. People have had to be rescued due to concussions, broken bones and getting stuck. There's a wall that you have to climb over. Once you do that, there is no turning back and you have to continue onward. This was our first cave, so we didn't do that one. This is info that the Rangers shared with us. Have fun, but be careful!

hiking
3 days ago

SO MUCH FUN. I’m so used to trail hiking that this was such a fun break! We did the lower cave first, then walked up the hill and went DOWN the upper cave rather than up. The rock scrambles in the upper cave are so cool and tons of fun to climb up, but going DOWN there are a few 6-8 foot drops you have to get down that are a little complicated (I needed help down one of them because I couldn’t reach the foothold). USFS and NW Forest Passes not sold on site from what I could see, so make sure you buy ahead of time. I used a flashlight and the flashlight on my phone because I left my headlamp at home. Would definitely suggest a headlamp, possibly gloves, and hiking boots to make your life a little easier on the way. Also FOR SURE dress in layers! The caves hang out at about 45*F year round! Lots of bruises from the rocks but it was totally worth it, one of my favorite adventures I’ve done to date!

Fantastic trail

Beautiful place

Went off hours, late afternoon on a weekday, and had the place almost to myself. Can get packed on weekends.

hiking
5 days ago

Awesome hike! We took our 5 year old and he did awesome. There were some hard parts with climbing rocks but he made it through the whole trail! I suggest flash lights, gloves for climbing the rocks and hiking boots, no flip flops.

hiking
6 days ago

hard upper caves. but worth it

Amazinnnggg! first big summit for me, about 8hours of hiking!

hiking
10 days ago

Hiked this trail 7/7. Did the lower section first, which should be rated hard. It is not for small children, dogs, or anyone fearful of heights. I am none of those things but there were a couple of places on the trail that sped up my heartbeat!

As noted by another reviewer, several people have died on this trail, I imagine they went beyond the many signs telling them to stay on the trail. We saw quite a few people doing just that the day we were there. The ladder is tall but very sturdy. However, there is one place one the trail that is quite skinny and you also have to step up a couple of feet. Yikes!

Turned around at the bridge and back up the way we came down, then did the easy loop across the suspension bridge. The water is beautiful.

hiking
12 days ago

Multiple wonderful views of beautiful waterfalls, coupled with somewhat scary cliffs to traverse. There is plenty of solid ground at these points, the narrowest point being about a foot of trail, but it is quite a long way down. I highly recommend this hike as the environment is quite fantastic, but watch your little one's closely. If you are bringing a dog, these is a 30' steel ladder, nearly vertical, that you need to scale. Plan accordingly.

hiking
14 days ago

We did the whole trail. The top part of the difficult section was a little nerve racking for me since the ledge is thin and some loose dusty ground there. But it was well described.

Took us 2 hours round trip

The drive there was very bumpy. Take a suv or truck. The way down to the waterfall is a bit tricky. We went on a Saturday afternoon and it almost looked like we were at a water park FULL of people, everyone was nice and minded their own business, so we didn’t really mind that. Great swimming spot for kids. We took our 2 year old and she LOVED it.

If you are coming from southern washington the road to get there will say closed about 3-4 miles from the trailhead. We drove past the road closed signs and came to a giant pothole in the road that no cars could get around (jeeps or trucks could make it) so we had to park and walk about 2 miles to the trail, being chased by bees the whole way. Not fun. But the lower waterfall was gorgeous and good for swimming, and I will be going back! Next time we will go around to enter from the north side to avoid the potholes and bees.

The waterfalls are worth the drive and hike!

Technically this trail is 3 modes of difficulty. You have options. The first is a paved interactive walk that has plenty of marked signage and history about the formation of Lava Canyon. It is wheelchair accessible and fairly straightforward.

The second trail is a loop. It is easy to moderate depending on what time of year you go. The trail gets slick in places. This is the portion of the trail that has the (amazing) 128 ft suspension bridge and the ladder. Its quick and I saw several families as we hiked. Kids love the suspension bridge. After the suspension bridge you can choose to go down and to the left which leads into the canyon or you can go up and to the right which continues the moderate loop you are already on.

Did I try the advanced trail? No. There is signage EVERYWHERE about people who have died because they didn't understand the risks. The third option is for experienced hikers and climbers. From what I understand it is a canyon that follows the flow of the falls. It is slick, steep, and dangerous. I know what my hiking level is. Someday I will get there. But not today.

overall the moderate Lava Canyon trail is what most think of when they learn about the trail. The views are incredible. The contrast of blackened lava and ice feed waterfalls against a cool green backdrop of forest and moss is stunning. You can see how the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's impacted the area because you are literally standing in the wake of dried lava flow 38 years later.

So glad I got to see it BUT the road to get there washed out and we were detoured thru hood river Oregon to get home! Literally took us an additional four hours to get back to I-5.

hiking
20 days ago

Hiked up just past where ape canyon trail intersects loomit loop, ate lunch, hiked back down. Clocked it at 10.3mi in 5 hrs including stops (doggy sniffing included).

* dusty and dry. BRING WATER especially for furry friends - there are 0 spots for them to drink from any bodies of water. Period.
* pretty flat footing all the way up since it’s a mixed use trail used by many mountain bikers.
* steady incline with a few ups and downs. No steep bits. I would put this on the easy side of moderate, with the only moderate part being the length. It really was quite an easy hike.
* all the mountain bikers we ran into were super respectful and conscious of hikers being on trail.
* great views of St. Helens, Adams, and even Rainier!
* bugs weren’t bad in the morning, but got bad as the day got hot. There were only a few mosquitoes towards the beginning, and the rest of the way up it was just a lot of flies. They were more annoying than anything. We got very few bites from the mosquitoes and the rare biting fly. Once we popped out onto the plains, there was an amazing breeze and the bugs were gone.
* LOTS of other trails to connect to and directions to go in once you reach the plains if you’re looking for a longer trek.

20 days ago

Very unique! Def make sure to take gloves and layers. It’s 40* down there. Wouldn’t recommend taking little kids through the whole length of the caves. Def a must see.

Beautiful upper and lower falls and the middle the falls isn't too bad either. It was in the 90s but felt cool in all the trees.

so worth it very good for photos

hiking
27 days ago

We did the upper level and it was very interesting with climbing over boulders, up walls, and through tight spaces. Definitely wear layers as it's very cold in the caves (you can see your breath). Hiking boots and headlamps are a must. You will need your hands for climbing. Wished I would have had some gloves. Overall, a fun hike that was challenging but not too strenuous.

We did upper Ape cave using our cell phone flashlights (put your phone in airplane mode so your battery lasts). Really fun! Lots of bouldering and fun trying to figure out which path to take thru the rocks. The 8 foot wall wasn’t too difficult even without a rope. My husband helped us by giving us an extra foot hold - helped! Hike is not for those who have only walked on flat, 3 mile trails in flip flops haha! Absolutely wear hiking boots and enjoy!

hiking
28 days ago

It's definitely not 'hard' as the description would indicate, as the inclines are manageable, and it's not too long. That said, it is definitely buggy, and you should plan to be harassed by the bugs for your entire time in the trees. It's a gorgeous trail though, and one I'd recommend for sure. Btw...I just read some of the other reviews from the last day or two. the bugs aren't as bad as the others let on. I mean...you're out in the woods...sheesh. Wear some sleeves and a hat and you'll be fine. I don't ever wear bugspray and didn't have many bites.

Also - note that this trail gets a LOT of MTB traffic. Plan accordingly for that if you're going to head up it. I personally start early in the morning so I get all of the bikes on their way up. If you catch them all headed downhill I could see this being pretty sketchy.

Awesome !!!! Lower caves get lame because of the crowds but still cool! We did upper and was less crowded and more adventurous. We brought our 7 year old and she did great!. UPPER CAVE IS NOT HARD! Group sizes (10+) were the only problem. If u hike here in WA often u will be fine! Some boulder scrambling and balance is all that is needed! Pro tip: bring head lamps and gloves... ur welcome! Those who rate this 3 stars or below simply do not belong here. Enjoy! Please remember that this isn’t a factory outlet!

29 days ago

we did the longer more strenuous loop and it was awesome!! make sure you have your headlamp though, you'll need both hands to get along some parts of this trail.

also. wear hiking boots. I saw a girl in tevas really struggling in there. poor decision on her part.

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