Explore Arnold Ice Caves

0.8 miles 40 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Derek Mathewson

*Explore one of Bend Oregon's secret caves tucked away in the Deschutes National Forest!

...Deep in the central Oregon Forest is a cave that is surrounded by Juniper Trees, Ponderosa Pines and the landscape of a secret volcanic underground world! This short hike is located roughly 12 miles East of Bend, and makes for an epic adventure for all to enjoy.

A little history on the cave...it was created by a basalt lava flow roughly 80,000-90,000 years ago. It was originally called "Crook County Ice Caves" by a guy named Ronald Greeley during an extensive examination of the lava tubes for the Oregon Department of Geology & Mineral Industries. It was once used to extract ice for commercial use in Bend, where debris from the 1950's mining operation can still be seen today. The Arnold Ice Caves is part of a lava tube system that includes other nearby caves such as Skeleton Cave, Boyd Cave, Charcoal Cave, Wind Cave, Lava River Cave and a few others. These lava tubes were formed as the top layer of a lava flow was exposed to air. The air cooled the lava, which slowed as is solidified. The lava down below remained at temperatures as high as 2,000° F and continued to flow like a river below the hardened top crust. The lava then drained away leaving the tube in place.

Directions: From Bend, you're gonna take 97 South and exit Knott Rd. Turn left and go about 1.5 miles until you get to China Hat Rd. From there you'll make a right and will go about 10 miles until you see Swamp Wells Rd. Turn right and drive about a half mile until the road comes to an end. The road is dirt graveled with some minor bumps, but any 2 or 4 wheel drive vehicle can make it. Once you park, the ice caves is directly to the left of the main trailhead. The hike and scramble down to the base of the cave can be a little tricky, but with a little time and patience, you'll be there in no time. Due to the name of the cave, you'd think there'd be a ton of ice, but unfortunately there was very little when I went. That may have been due to the time that I visited (May), but I can't say for sure. As you make your way through the cave, you'll notice the gold/silver sparkles as you shine your flashlight towards the ceiling. Although there was minimal ice, the colors in this cave were just magnificent! 

Once you're done exploring, make your way back the same way you came and head towards the main trailhead. Up ahead about a quarter mile are Hidden Forest Cave and Charcoal Cave. Due to a critical bat population and running test samples, Charcoal Cave is closed to the public. Hidden Forest Cave is accessible and is only a few hundred feet from Charcoal...so definitely go and check it out! The hike is no more than 0.8 miles round trip and the temperatures inside the caves can range anywhere between 35-50°, so dress appropriately and bring a flashlight. As always, pack out what you pack in and respect the landscape....Happy Trails! 

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🥇Top Contributor

4 months ago

Ape caves but less known!

A hidden gem right outside of sunriver. Highly recommend


The scramble down is not as easy as it sounded. Had our kids with us, all probably capable of getting down but elected to skip it due to evidence there was a staircase and ropes to aid in the decent into the cave, at some point in time. Suspected rock fall had destroyed the staircase but due to the remnants of the staircase being in a neat pile at the bottom of the rocks and graffiti on the cavern walls suspect vandalism instead. Looked like it could have been a fun little hike prior to the destruction of the stairs and rope guides. Do yourself a favor and skip this cave in favor of Boyd cave.

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