Youth Winter Adventures

What do youth say about youth winter adventures?

  • "Getting out of your comfort zone is fun!"
  • "I learned that I really enjoy being outside."
  • "When I go home I am going to tell my friends and family about how peaceful and interesting this place is."

What do group leaders and teachers say about youth winter adventures? 

“Excellent and well-rounded activities for all interests and learning styles” “wonderful immersive experience” “Fun & informative adventure, exploring the Mount St. Helens environment & history.” “An experience not to miss” “Staff interacted with participants non-judgmentally, incorporated cultural information about the land & history, advised to self advocate to do things at our own pace and comfort.”

Take your class or group on a winter exploration of the forests growing on lava flows on the south side of Mount St. Helens at the Trail of Two Forests & Ape Cave.


Youth winter adventures immerse youth in the winter forests and lava features of Mount St. Helens. Together we explore the way that volcanic landscapes change over time and the phenomena of lava tube caves. These trips support social emotional learning, team building and group bonding.

  • Read about how it feels to be on a winter snowshoe trip in this blog story. 
  • Learn more in this slide deck which provides information about the trip locations, sample schedule, goals, photos, packing list and more.

Who? Youth serving organizations, school groups and family groups. 

  • Maximum group size: Up to 20 people
  • Age requirement: Our trips best serve youth aged 12 and older. 
  • Student to educator ratio: 1 staff and 1 volunteer to up to 20 people 

When? Weekends and weekdays February through April. 

  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Time: 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Custom times may be available upon request.

Where? Youth winter adventures meet in Cougar, Washington and drive to the Ape Cave Sno Park at the Trail of Two Forests. From there, we hike along the ~1.5-mile paved road that leads to the entrance of Ape Cave. During the winter season, this road is unplowed and is a gradual uphill hike. Conditions determine whether or not we are able to enter the cave.

Hiking in the snow in the winter season is more physically demanding than other times of year. The hike leading to Ape Cave follows a paved road that is often covered in snow. Our trips often include hiking off-trail in the forest surrounding the road. If time and conditions allow a group to go into Ape Cave, we always only explore the lower section of Ape Cave which does not require any climbing or scrambling over boulders.The maximum distance we travel in Ape Cave is less than 1 mile.


Since 2019, the Mount St. Helens Institute has worked to expand and increase opportunities for outdoor youth education programs in the winter season. We provide gear, information about the route, conditions, risk management, USFS special-use permit access into Ape Cave (closed to the public during the winter season), an interpretive educator, and volunteers for additional support. 

Field trips to Mount St. Helens are memorable for so many reasons: in part, because volcanoes have stories to tell. In the landscape surrounding the ~8000’ Mount St. Helens, features such as the topography, soil, age and type of plants and the location of lakes are often clues telling stories of past eruptions. The stories echo themes of change, unpredictability, scale, resilience, surprise. These stories expand our understanding of natural phenomena and encourage us to reflect on our own relationship to change. 


  • $12/person/hour (Minimum: $500/day)
  • 1 teacher/group leader free
  • Financial assistance may be available for low-income groups

Complete our non-binding inquiry form to let us know you are interested and to provide information about your group. 

What do I need to bring? 

  • We provide all snowshoes and trekking poles and micro-spikes (depending on the trail and snow conditions) for participants. ALL program participants (youth & adults) are welcome to use our gear. We have 5 pairs of youth sized snowshoes.
  • We provide information about trail and road conditions, first aid kits, first aid and risk management.
  • We provide parking permits.
  • We provide clothing gear upon request such as winter jackets, gloves, hats, rain pants, hand warmers for participants that do not have this gear. 
  • Group provides their own lunch, extra snacks, and water bottles. 
  • Group outfits participants as much as possible with sturdy footwear and warm clothes.
  • Group provides their own transportation. Field site parking at Trail of Two Forests Trailhead does not require chains or specialized vehicles to access most trips unless the trip occurs during unseasonably snowy weather.

Interested in field trips during the months of May through October? Visit our Volcano Outdoor School page for more information.