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I’m Sara! I’m 21, a senior in college, and a journalism major.  I love to read, write, travel, and listen to music.  I’m always on to my next adventure.


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Name: Lava Cave Author's Rating:
Author: Matthew Marine and Emily Huddleston Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike Difficulty: (Learner)
Time: 1 - 2 hours Region: Northwest Arizona
Length: ~ 2.0 miles (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: Not much
Type: Out and back in an underground cave Avg Elevation: 7600 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, summer Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: June, 2015
Short Description: An awesome hike through 700,000 year-old lava tubes that formed an underground cave near Flagstaff
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area: Journey to the Center of the Earth; Lava River Cave; Lava Tube
References / Contact Information: The Descent into Darkness; Coconino National Forest; Arizona Hiking Trails
Points of interest: Underground cave (lava tube); interesting geology; cool place to go in the summer
Special Considerations: Make sure you are prepared for an underground journey. Take multiple bright flashlights and batteries. Take warm clothes for the cave. Temperatures can range from 35 to 45 degrees. Footing can be slippery. Forest Roads may be closed in the winter.
How to get there: Drive 9 miles north of Flagstaff on US 180 and turn west (left) on FR 245 (at milepost 230). Continue 3 miles to FR171 and turn south 1 mile to where FR 171B turns left. From here it is a short distance to Lava River Cave (Waypoint Lava Cave). Although the forest roads are dirt, they are usually well-maintained and can be traversed by a normal passenger vehicle. If the roads are muddy or snow covered, this may not be the case. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

The Flagstaff Lava River Cave or Lava Tubes is a really interesting and unique place to spend a couple of hours. Obviously, this isn't a "normal" hike, but the scenery is outstanding in its own right. The entrance to the cave is perhaps the most difficult part of the hike. You will need to scramble down a large rock pile through a small (compared to the rest of the cave) opening. I don't know how deep the cave is (far beneath the ground), but it does go a long way back. A mile from what I've been told. I have no way of verifying this. If you're looking for something to do around Flagstaff, this should be on your list!

See Emily Huddleston's feature story, The Descent into Darkness, to read about her experience hiking through the lava tubes.

General Information and History

From Emily Huddleston's story on the Lava Cave: The Lava River Cave is near Flagstaff, Arizona. The cave was formed around 700,000 years ago after molten rock erupted from a volcano vent in Hart Prairie nearby. The top, bottom and sides of the cave cooled first, solidifying them. This allowed the insides of the lava river to continue to flow until it emptied out that cave.

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The Trail

Park near the cave entrance (Waypoint Lava Cave). Walk the short distance to the cave opening. Descend down the rocks, through the opening and into the cave. Follow the main cave from here on out. After a while, the cave splits. At the split, you probably want to take the left fork. We understand the one to the right has very low ceilings. Follow the tube back to the end ~ 1 mile from the beginning. When you reach the end, turn around and go back the way you came. Make sure you take some time to enjoy the scenery. You will find that the rocks change in color, texture and dampness as you make your through the tunnel.

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

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