Lava River Cave in Flagstaff


Imagine in one hike going from 90-degree temperatures to 45 degrees. Imagine going from sunny skies to pure darkness. Imagine hitting such cold spots in this hike, that you actually see your breath in the middle of summer. Imagine hiking down into the earth through the mouth of a cave into a mile long journey of a lava tube.

This is Lave River Cave located in Flagstaff. And it is completely awesome!

This cave or “lava tube” was created around 700,000 years ago from actual lava, from a volcano eruption. According to the Coconino National Forest website this lava river was formed within hours and has remained in the same condition throughout all the years.  It is a masterpiece and a must do hike, because when are you ever going to get the chance to walk a mile under Earth’s surface?

The mouth of the cave
The mouth of the cave

When you are above ground all you see is green grass and tall pine trees on flat land.

Under the ground it’s a whole another story. It’s a massive dark cave that makes you feel like you are exploring the underworld.

This hike is very easy. The hardest part is in the beginning of actually going down into the cave. It’s a little intimating because the coldness from the cave is blasting you in the face, it’s dark and the rocks are wet and slippery. Not to mention the rocks are pretty big and there is no worn path, so it’s up to you to figure out how to shimmy down. I choose to get on my ass and scoot myself down until we got to a flatter area. Once you get past that part it’s all easy. There are a couple areas where you may have to uncomfortably scramble over some rocks, but nothing too bad.

It’s actually really amazing to see and it made me feel so little in this world. There are areas where the ceiling is 30 feet over your head and other areas where you can reach up and touch the ceiling. At some points there was ice on the ceiling as well. It was definitely worth the trip!

IMG_2497Here are some warnings and tips:

  • Bring two headlamps and/or flashlights per person. (In case one goes out, you’ll need back up. It’s extremely dark.)
  • Wear something warm. Even though it may be the hottest day of the year, the temperature of the cave is cooler, with areas being 45 degrees.
  • Drive a vehicle that you think won’t get stuck in mud.
  • Wear good shoes. You’ll need good grips for the slippery slanted rocks.

A side note:

According to other articles and REI employees this hike is so easy you can take your dog and also if you have a small child you plan on putting in a carrier, this would be the ideal hike. THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  Here are two reasons why:

  1. As we were going down the hole and new father had a baby in a carrier on his back. As he was climbing up his baby’s head accidentally smacked into a rock. Not good.
  1. I took my dog with us. My dog has no fear and loves a good adventure! But upon entering the mouth of the cave Scruffy (my dog) became very nervous. So much so, that I decided it wasn’t good for her and she would have to wait in the car for us to finish the hike. (I was actually scared that she could’ve broken a leg as well.)

One comment

  1. Yeah my 2 dogs got really nervous too!! We kinda forced them to tag along after they tried to retreat!! The entrance was the only sketchy part. Love the site!!! I hike a lot, mainly up north and always looking for a new one. Just hard to find reviews.

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