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Boulder Cave

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Boulder Cave formed over millions of years from ongoing volcanic action and erosion. Periodic lava flows deposited rock over soft, loose rock and soil. The lava cooled, forming hard layers of basalt and trapping the softer layers of loose sediment between. Wind and water then scoured the softer layers out. Today the cave is home to a dwindling population of Pacific western big-eared bats (a.k.a. Townsend bats), a listed sensitive species in both Washington and Oregon. Only fifty remain of thousands that inhabited the cave in the 1920s and '30s, hence the cave's winter closure to ensure a safe hibernation period. Do bring a reliable light source for exploring the cave.

The Boulder Cave Trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935 and was improved in 1987 by the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), with the voluntary help of a local stone mason. The gravel trail follows the rim of a small gorge that is part of a deep ravine. The path climbs gradually away from the parking area, piercing a pine and fir forest that also supports some big, old maples and alders.

As the wide trail nears the cave mouth, it winds down to the slit in the rock that serves as the cave entrance. Hikers MUST have a reliable light source to explore the cave--a bright headlamp is recommended, though a powerful hand-held flashlight would be adequate. A backup light should also be carried just in case your primary light goes dead. You'll also want a jacket to slip on, even in the heat of August. The cave is damp and cool, with temperatures typically hovering in the 50s.

Explore the shallow cave (about 400 feet deep) at your leisure before heading back out the way you came.
Driving Directions:

From Chinook Pass drive east on State Route 410 about 26 miles, ap-proaching the town of Cliffdell. Turn right onto a road signed "Boulder Cave National Recreational Trail." Cross the Naches River on a bridge and almost immediately turn right, following the signs 1.1 miles to the trailhead.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 14 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Boulder Cave — Aug 31, 2013 — Elisabeth & Steve Lind
Day hike
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This is a fun and easy hike for kids and dogs! The kids love it and the dogs did fine. Remember your...
This is a fun and easy hike for kids and dogs! The kids love it and the dogs did fine. Remember your flashlight or download the flashlight app on your smartphone ahead of time, that worked well also.
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Boulder Cave — Jul 21, 2013 — KBrewer
Day hike
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What can be done to protect this beautiful and unique area? The hike to boulder cave has always been...
What can be done to protect this beautiful and unique area? The hike to boulder cave has always been a favorite of my family. We used to hike up there when I was a kid and I have taken my own children there a few times. I haven't been there in 3 years and today I was a little shocked and dismayed at the state of the trail and the people using it.

There was garbage everywhere, from baby diapers to candy wrappers and lots and lots of one-time use plastic water bottles. Every trail sign was tagged, along with trees, and the rocks walls of the cave itself. We saw many dogs, and while they were all leashed, their poop was left on the trail. Most worrisome of all were the large number of people that were blindly disregarding the signs telling us to stay on the trail. We saw large groups leaving the trail and hiking all the way back down from the cave IN the stream-bed, in spite of signs stating explicitly that it was an area "in repair" and to stay out.

Our young children were unaware of most of this and had a great time anyway, but my husband and I were concerned. We packed out as much trash as we could carry, and taught our children the importance of not leaving behind things in the wilderness. However, we were left with a feeling of unease and wondering what else could be done. I realize this is an extremely easy access area and therefore draws a large number of people. But perhaps a combination of education and enforcement would help increase the level of respect for this area.
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Boulder Cave — Aug 08, 2012 — Blackrock
Day hike
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Great hike, awesome cave, was warm and few people...found alot of trash at mouth to cave system, we ...
Great hike, awesome cave, was warm and few people...found alot of trash at mouth to cave system, we picked it all up and packed it out.
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Boulder Cave — Aug 04, 2012 — Michael Dylan Welch
Day hike
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This was a great hike for my two kids (ages 6 and 8). It's an easy walk to the cave entrance, and th...
This was a great hike for my two kids (ages 6 and 8). It's an easy walk to the cave entrance, and the paths in the cave itself are easy. There's also at least one side cave that my kids found within the main cave -- fifty easy steps take you away from the main path and up into a smaller area (see photo). Flashlights definitely necessary. We took light jackets along too, but didn't need them, since it was a hot day (low 90s outside). Nice and cool in the cave, but no jackets required. Highly recommended for families, but make sure everyone has flashlights!

The parking lot was nearly full when we arrived at 1:00 pm on a Saturday, and probably was full earlier in the day, since people had parked along the access road.
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Boulder Cave — Jul 13, 2012 — Molly T
Day hike
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A fantastic hike for a hot summers day. Came out from Ellensburg so the drive was lengthy but findin...
A fantastic hike for a hot summers day. Came out from Ellensburg so the drive was lengthy but finding the rec sight was easy. The hike was more of a nature walk but the caves are absolutely amazing and one you get down in them they are very cool- temp wise. A great hike for kids too since it's very short and not very steep. It's $5 to park there.
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boulder cave hikingqueen.jpg
In front of Boulder Cave. Photo by Hikingqueen.
Location
Boulder Cave (#962)
South Cascades -- Chinook Pass - Enumclaw or Hwy 410 area
Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, Naches Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain 300 ft
Highest Point 2700 ft
Features
Old growth
Wildlife
User info
Good for kids
Guidebooks & Maps
Snoqualmie Pass
Hiking Guide to Washington Geology (Carson / Babcock - Keokee) p. 141-143
Green Trails Old Scab Mountain No. 272

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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