Explore Flagstaff's Lava River Cave

Rate this Adventure Arizona Flagstaff Lava River Cave

Added by Jeremy Meek

Venture one mile into the depths of the earth via an expansive lava tube! The tube ranges from 30' tall cavernous passages to narrow passages less than 3' tall.

If you’re looking for a truly unique hiking experience in Arizona, look no further than the Lava River Cave, 14 miles northwest of Flagstaff. The longest lava tube in Arizona, the cave was formed approximately 700,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption in Hart Prairie. As the lava from the eruption flowed, the outer edges began to cool and harden, but the lava in the middle continued to flow, hollowing out the lava rock into a tube. Considered a “natural museum” and a “moment frozen in time,” the cave is a fascinating study in geology, biology, and history — and honestly, it’s just plain cool.

In fact, it’s extremely cool — the lava rock acts as an insulator that keeps the inside of the cave at about 48 degrees or cooler year-round, even in 90+ degree summers. If you have ever dreamed of walking into your refrigerator on one of those summer days, now’s your chance!

The tube itself is a wonder. In some areas, the passages are over 30 feet tall, while in others, the ceiling can be as low as 3 feet (not for the claustrophobic!). There are incredible natural features in the tube, including frozen lava ripples in the ground, and “lavasicles” hanging from above.

From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180. After mile marker 229, you will turn left on Forest Road 245. After approximately one mile, turn left onto Forest Road 171. Shortly thereafter, you will come across forest road 171B; turn left and it will lead to the parking area. From Flagstaff to the cave entrance is about a 30 minute drive. Please note that in the winter months, these roads may be closed due to snow or ice.

The cave itself is approximately one mile long. At the fork in the tube, you can go either way, but going left (north) is easiest. Going right (south) will lead to a very low ceiling that eventually meets back up with the north passage.

Upon entering the cave, you will see evidence of collapses of the tunnel walls. Some collapses happened thousands of years ago, but others are relatively recent. There is always a chance of the walls or ceiling “shedding” layers of rock. As such, do not visit the cave when there have been heavy rains or when there has been recent seismic activity in the Flagstaff area (does not occur often). If you're a worry-wort or always play things safe, bring a spelunking helmet along.

Pack List

  • Warm Gear (Year-Round)
  • Sturdy Shoes With Good Tread (Ice Present Sometimes)
  • Flashlights / Head Lamps with FRESH Batteries
  • Water
  • Snacks
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Share

Activities:

Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Features:

Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Scenic

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!

Added by Jeremy Meek

Construction and sustainability guru by day. Adventurer, recreational photographer, and blogger by night and weekend. Arizona lover and native Phoenician.

More Adventures Nearby

Hike to Fremont Saddle

Arizona / Peralta Trailhead

After taking Peralta Road all the way to the end, park your car in the parking lot and you'll see the sign for the trail head. Sign in at the register and then begin our hike on Peralta Trail.

Breanne McNitt
3 Saves

Canoe Black Canyon on the Colorado River

Arizona / Willow Beach

This 10-mile canoe trip starts at Willow Beach and reaches all the way to the Hoover Dam, giving you front row seats to beautiful canyon walls, waterfalls, hot springs, (sauna) caves, hiking trails, .

Ciara Foley
2 Saves

Hike the South Kaibab Trail to Tip Off

Arizona / Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center

The late Fall turned out to be the perfect time to visit the Grand Canyon.

Benny Barrett
1 Saves