The Flagstaff Lava Tubes in Arizona

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Descending into the depths of a volcanic lava cave sounds like something Hollywood would love. This is a reality for avid hikers just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. A cave system deep in the Ponderosa Pine Forest introduces hikers to an entirely new world while sitting just underground.

Even during the warmer months, temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit create a sense of wonder and awe for those visiting the Lava Tubes. Lava River Cave is not difficult to find, but getting there requires some planning and fancy footwork. Here’s how to get to the Flagstaff Lava Tubes, as well as some advice on how to hike down into its depths.

Where is the location?

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Hikers who are new to the lava tubes should be aware that the conditions of the cave do necessitate some level of physical fitness. Furthermore, the cave ceiling varies in height, reaching as high as 30 feet in some places and as low as three feet in others. On the ground, the terrain is occasionally uneven, frequently slippery, and necessitates some agility on the part of the hiker.

The Lava River Cave can be found with the following directions for those who are well-prepared:

From Flagstaff, take US 180 north until you reach mile marker 229. Following that, a left turn onto Forest Road 245 leads to Forest Road 171, which leads to Forest Road 171B. A left turn from here will take you to the Lava Tubes parking area.

Hikers will have a quarter-mile relatively easy hike to the caves after parking.

 Exploring the Flagstaff Lava River Cave

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The cave was formed approximately 700,000 years ago when a volcano erupted in Hart Prairie. The process of rapid cooling on the lava flow’s exterior caused a hollow interior, which created the lava tube cave that exists today. Visitors can see evidence of this unusual cooling process, as well as lava-hardened details in the floor and walls. Despite how hot Flagstaff’s summers can be, the hardened lava rock walls keep the cave at 48 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler all year.

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Hikers should be in generally good physical condition to traverse the lava tubes, according to The descent involves approximately 300 feet of rock scrambling through loose gravel, large rocks, and dirt. Hikers will be forced to use both their hands and their feet at times to climb down into the cave’s entrance, with some spots being more dangerous than others. Hikers must be comfortable in small, confined spaces, though the path down opens up into a larger cavern.

This cave hike allows for crawling, crouching, and scrambling. Good footwork is obviously required, and this is not a hike for those with ankle, foot, or leg injuries, or anyone who is unstable on their feet.

When Should You Visit Flagstaff Lava River Cave?

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Summer is the best time for hikers to visit the lava tubes. This is when navigation will be easiest, and visitors can expect the caves to be open every day. The caves frequently close during the winter for safety reasons due to snow and ice.

Visitors in the winter are welcome to snowshoe or ski to the cave, but they are not permitted to navigate it when it is closed for the season.

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Accommodation in Flagstaff

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