The upper entrance is through a small skylight. The metal ladder that provides access is angled halfway through, and the passage is narrow enough to force those with backpacks to turn sideways on the ladder just to be able to bend their knees.
The skylight is a natural opening to the surface. Here in the pool of light, the rocks of the cave are covered with moss. Near the top of the skylight are ferns and other larger plants.
The lava falls are steep walls of lava. The upper one is about 6 feet tall, not particularly steep, and relatively easy to climb. The tricky part is at the top of this fall; the roof of the cave lowers to within a few feet of the top of the fall, but the passage opens up again a few feet farther up the cave.
There are several small side passages in the upper part of the cave. The large one between the two lava falls is on an upper ledge of the cave, and easy to miss if you are not looking for it.
The lower lava fall is an impressive 8 foot high nearly vertical wall. The rough texture of the lava provides ample finger and toe-holds, if you are able to reach them. (The first time I tried to climb the wall, I was wearing jeans, and couldn't get my foot high enough on the wall. I had no problem with it last time, since I wore shorts.)
The Big Room is the largest open area of Ape Cave. The floor consists of tumbled chunks of basalt that have broken off of the ceiling and walls. There is a small side passage that leads off from the big room that's about 160 feet long. The big room has distinct flow markings on the walls.
The main entrance to Ape cave is a sink hole. On the surface is a display that shows the formation of the cave, how it was discovered, and life forms found in the cave. Access to the cave is by two sets of stairs. One stair leads from the surface into the sink hole, which is a great spot to put on warm clothing and other gear and test your lights. From the sink hole, a large passage leads downslope several yards to the second stairway. This is the 18 foot drop into the main tube of Ape Cave.
The lava balls are a rare feature found only in a few lava tube caves. Ape Cave has several small lava balls and one large one. The larger lava ball is one of the most famous of the cave's formations.
Near the downslope end of the cave, the passage is split by a shelf.
The upper passage is short- its floor is made of rough lava. (Nice to have
kneepads in that part!) The lower passage leads to a lengthy crawlway that
ends in a small, ash floored room. The cave continues beyond this room,
but the opening is too small for anything but small animals to get through.
Perhaps one day erosion will open the passage up enough for the rest of
Ape Cave to be explored.