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4.5
384 votes

Lava River Cave

forest service rd 171, Flagstaff, Arizona AZ USA

Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Tue 12a-11:59p
  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • No Wifi
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“700,000 year old tube cave!”

This mile-long lava tube cave was formed roughly 700,000 years ago by molten rock that erupted from a volcanic vent in nearby Hart Prairie. The top, sides and bottom of the flow cooled and solidified first, after which the insides of the lava river continued to flow emptying out the present cave. Ample evidence of how the tube was born is written in the rocks of which it is formed. Small wave-like undulations in the floor are the remains of ripples frozen in the last trickle of molten rock that flowed from the cave. Stone icicles hanging from the ceiling show where a final blast of volcanic heat caused the rock to partially re-liquefy and drip. Dress appropriately when you come to visit, with warm clothes and sturdy shoes. The cave is as cool as 42° even in summer, and you may even find some ice inside. The rocks are always sharp and slippery, too. Bring two or three sources of light, in case one happens to fail, it can be very dark one mile from the nearest light source. Portions of the cave which were once defaced by graffiti have been cleaned up. Today's more environmentally aware visitors take better care of such a unique resource and report vandals when they see them. Learn more: Lava River Cave: A Natural Museum   View album on Flicker  

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Reviews

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Reviewed by
Kyle

  • 1 Review
  • 11 Helpful
July 04, 2020
Rated 1.0

Closed, drove a long way for nothing.

11 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
warrant2000

  • 4 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
August 18, 2018
Rated 5.0

This was one of our favorite places on our road trip. To add to the flashlight and jackets, be ready for a long drive on dirt roads to get here, and your cell service may not work, which might impact your ability to use google maps. The intersections are not clearly marked, and it could be easy to lose your way. Save this map for offline use to get yourself back to the main road.

8 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
stephanie.geare

  • 8 Reviews
  • 26 Helpful
May 22, 2014
Rated

The cave is great! Bring a jacket, pants, hiking shoes or durable sneakers, and a beanie/something warm for your head. Also don't forget to bring a powerful headlamp or flashlight with you. You will not be able to go very far without light! Have fun, and leave only footprints!

5 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
kckmullen

  • 31 Reviews
  • 36 Helpful
April 28, 2014
Rated

The location of the lava caves are actually forest service rd 171 not 235. See the website

4 people found this review helpful
  • 13 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
August 29, 2019
Rated 4.0

We didn't go very far in due to the time of day we were near here and it would have been better if we had sneakers vs sports sandals. My kids loved it and was the hightlight of the trip. The road in, is gravel/dirt and there are a few signs. Once you get in the park area, it is hard to figure out where the trail is, but we asked others coming out and then noticed signs on a tree. Its about a 1/3 of a mile walk from the parking area. Overall beautiful area and fun time.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Brad

  • 14 Reviews
  • 10 Helpful
June 18, 2016
Rated

This stop was well worth our family's time. Its just 10 minutes outside of Bend and only costs $5 per car for the day to explore. This is a self-guided tour but there are rangers on site to collect the $5 fee and rent flashlights if needed. Bring a spare flashlight or two incase one fails. We had 4 flashlights for 5 people and found it to be insufficient. Everyone really needs their own flashlight to see where they are walking. Some of it is flat, some very rocky. Its also very cool down there, as most caves are. Our family didn't make it to the end, but I'm told it just goes on and on until it dead ends then you must exit the way you came in.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
jazyem

  • 2 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
June 29, 2015
Rated 4.0

We camped for free just a few miles away and had a blast in the cave. A little chilly at the end of the cave but not terrible. Headlamps were really helpful.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Rufus_Zomfyre76

  • 5 Reviews
  • 3 Helpful
April 30, 2015
Rated 5.0

One of the best surprise road trips my Dad ever took us on. Make sure you have sturdy shoes, dress in layers, & bring a decent light source. If your are clumsy like me, you might also want to wear a helmet.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
YoYoRalston

  • 95 Reviews
  • 13 Helpful
January 18, 2015
Rated 4.0

It was a lot of fun and spooky when we went since we were the only ones in the cave. We went on a Sunday in July. Make sure to take LED flashlights they are the best for this cave. Use hiking shoes because it can be slippery in some areas.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Lesli Peterson

  • Blogger
  • 1,213 Reviews
  • 63 Helpful
January 19, 2023
Rated 5.0

Located slightly northwest of Flagstaff, Lava River Cave was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago by way of a volcanic eruption. The heat produced by the eruption hollowed out a lava tube in nearby rocks, creating a cave that visitors can now enter and explore.

Open year round, the tunnel is about 3/4 of a mile long; you’ll have to bring your own flashlights and make sure to always have a backup for your light source. As expected, the cave is both dark and cold, so dress appropriately even in the summer.

Exploring the cave and imagining the unique geological process that gave it its shape, makes a visit here an unforgettable experience that goes beyond a classic hike.

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Lava River Cave

forest service rd 171
Flagstaff, Arizona
AZ USA
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Hours

Open 24 hours today
  • Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm

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    Pets Allowed
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    Wheelchair Accessible
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