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Lava River Cave

Photo courtesy of Megan Egli

Most of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument’s attractions show off the aboveground effects of numerous volcanic eruptions; the Lava River Cave, meanwhile, takes visitors underground for a thrilling trip back in time.

The mile-long tube—which formed roughly 65,000 years ago and held lava that flowed toward the Deschutes River—was one of the first to be discovered in Oregon and is the state’s longest. Hikers can make the two-mile (round-trip) trek between early May and mid-September and walk through the fascinating cave by taking a few sets of stairs, following a boardwalk, and navigating uneven terrain within the tube. At its widest point, the cave measures nearly 60 feet tall and 50 feet wide.

Hikers are encouraged to bring at least two high-powered LED light sources—mobile phone flashlights are not recommended—and wear boots or shoes suited to the rugged terrain. Hikers should also dress for the climate, since the interior of the cave is about 42ºF year-round.

The cave is only open during the daytime, and all hikers must obtain a Timed Reservation Ticket to visit; tickets cost $2 per vehicle and are available on a rolling basis—with half the inventory released on a 30-day window and the rest released 24 hours out.

Once at the cave site, hikers attend an orientation that covers etiquette, insight on what to expect, resources for light rentals (available at the site), and tips for preventing the spread of White-nose Syndrome—a disease that’s deadly to bats that call the cave home. Vault toilets are available at the trailhead.

Open Season

May-mid-Sept.

Dog Friendly and/or Leash Rules

Dogs are not permitted.

Best time to visit

May-mid-Sept.

Don’t Miss

The cave itself is the main attraction here; try visiting on a warm summer day to best appreciate the cooler temperatures underground.

Fees or Pass Needed

A Forest Pass ($5 per day pass or $30 per annual pass) or America the Beautiful pass ($80 per annual pass) is accepted; timed reservation tickets are also required to explore the cave (available for a $2 reservation fee).

Restrictions

No pets are allowed in the cave, and hikers should not bring any gear or apparel that has been used or worn in other caves or mines.

Activities

Hiking

Spelunking

Parking

There is a parking area at the trailhead.

Directions

Lava River Cave is about 13 miles south of Bend and 4.5 miles northeast of Sunriver via Highway 97.

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