Lava River Cave is a 0.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Flagstaff, Arizona that features a cave and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and camping and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 0.3 mi Elevation gain 0 ft Route type Out & Back

Dogs on leash

Kid friendly

Camping

Hiking

Cave

Forest

Rocky

Scramble

Snow

Description
Waypoints (0)
Facilities
Contact
Tips
Getting There

NOTE: as of 6/5/2020, it has been reported this trail is currently gated and fenced off. Please see the park's website for up to date information. Note: The Lava River Cave is open year-round. However, Forest Roads 245 and/or 171 may be closed during the winter months. For more information, please see https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recarea/?recid=55122&actid=102 The Lava River Cave is a natural formation remaining from a lava tube. The entrance to the cave is a rapid rock covered decent that "levels off". The cave floor is the cooled waves of lava that once flowed; it's very hard and uneven. There are some tight spots when crouching is required; large backpacks should be left at the surface. At the end of the main cave is a small cave just big enough to sit in; not for big guys or the claustrophobic. You definitely need a flashlight or a headlamp. The Lava River Cave is a unique trail that ties in excellently with the remains of volcanic activity elsewhere in the region. From SP Crater and Sunset Crater to the vast caldera of the San Francisco Peaks, you can see volcanos and cinder cones all over the Flagstaff area. This lava tube gives you another perspective and cool geologic insight into nearby eruptions from thousands of years ago. The scrambling at the entrance was a little frustrating because it presents an obstacle to getting down to the good stuff, and the rugged rocks continued throughout the cave—and appeared to be portions of the ceiling that had broken off and fallen to the floor. At one point, the trail splits in half. Take the trail to the left for an easier experience, or, go to the right if you want to crouch down and squeeze underneath a 3-foot clearance opening. There are one or two more parts where you have to do a little duck walk beneath low ceilings, so if this will be challenging for you, be advised.

There is parking just down from the cave opening but can be limited in the peak of the season (July-Sept)

Flagstaff Ranger District, 5075 N. Highway 89, Flagstaff, Arizona 86004, (928) 526-0866

REQUIRED FOR A GOOD TRIP Flashlight, It is very dark in caves and the sunlight dies after a few hundred feet in Sturdy shoes (NO flip flops), the lava is hard, slippery, and very uneven. Warm cloths, the temp in the cave is always 32-40 years round (regardless of the weather above). If you camp here you need to be at least a mile form the cave

Drive 9 miles north of Flagstaff on US 180 and turn west (left) on FR 245 (at milepost 230). Continue 3 miles to FR171 and turn south 1 mile to where FR 171B turns left a short distance to Lava River Cave.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (249)
Photos (52)
Recordings (127)
Completed (724)
Daniel Mills-Thysen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jun 06 2020
HikingRocky

currently gated and fenced off as of 6/5/2020. The fence was easily climable and the hike through the caves was great, if a bit cold. the Forest Service road to the caves is open until about .25 miles away.

Amanda Hikes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Apr 20 2020
Hiking

We did this back in August 2019. Super cool crawling down into the cave and walking the mile or so length (total distance of the cave). Bring flash lights and layers!

David Ramos
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Apr 10 2020
Hiking

Great cave but they just closed it until further notice due to covid19 the ranger said they are aiming towards mid may to reopen plus the gate frim the I-40 is closed and it’s a 7 mile walk from there

Melinda Martell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Mar 01 2020
Hiking

Do not come over the winter unless you want to walk 12 plus miles. The road is closed due to snow. Regardless the cave is awesome and we will totally do it again once the snow melts.

Mario Antonioni
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Feb 22 2020
Hiking

Can’t currently get there from 180, road is closed, I’m guessing that’s the same coming from the S.

Grace Cushing
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Nov 19 2019
Hiking

This was awesome! We went not knowing what to expect and it ended up being a really unique experience. We hiked just using the flashlight on our phones and it was fine but the cold temperatures drained battery quickly and I did drop my phone a few times so if you're clumsy like me I would recommend bringing a flashlight.

Wesley Partin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Oct 30 2019
Hiking

Really cool spot. tucked away.

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Ari C.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Oct 26 2019
Hiking

Bring a light source (flashlight, headlamp, etc) and sturdy shoes! Dark, cold, and wet. No bats.

Eugenia Marchenko
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Oct 26 2019
Hiking

So cool! If you are in the area then this is a must. If you are into geology even a little bit then this is a must as well. Wear sturdy shoes, bring a head lamp or at least a flash light. You can feel the cold coming out of the cave when you are at surface, however once you start moving around you'll even get kind of hot, so I suggest just a light long sleeve perhaps. I was slightly intimidated by the drive in, but only because I have a tiny kinda crappy Hyundai Elantra, nonetheless it was an easy drive. If you have an SUV then you are ahead of the curve. No bats :( was hoping I'd see some. If you are not in the best shape I'd consider this challenging but doable, don't rush, just take your time, just when you start to get over it, it levels off. Loose rocks everywhere so take caution when walking around in there. Overall 5 stars for uniqueness, accessibility and level of work out. Don't trash the place please, pack it in, pack it out!!!!!!!! Happy trails

Brian Bowden
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Oct 24 2019
HikingRocky

this was my first lava tube. very cool. very dark. turn the lights off often. and like someone else mentioned, go early to be one of the first.

Dru Forbes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Oct 21 2019
HikingRocky

We loved this. Going on was creepy at first because you’re going into a hole in the ground but this was one of the most amazing trails ever. It’s rocky for sure, and it gets cold! Please wear gloves.

Linda B.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Oct 20 2019
HikingRockyScramble
View Linda's Recording
Heather Adkins
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Oct 18 2019
Hiking

Super cool. Wear good shoes! Rocky, uneven, low ceiling

Christie Mitchell Olson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Oct 12 2019
HikingRockyScramble

Very easy walk to the entrance of the cave. Inside was very rocky initially, and then uneven throughout the rest of the cave. We didn't see very many people inside until we reached the end and started heading back. Go early to avoid the crowd.

View Christie's Recording
Dale Sharp
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Oct 08 2019
HikingRocky

Wow, just completed yesterday with a group of 11 scouts & had a blast! It was perfect temp & great adventure. It's a little rockie but manageable. Bring flashlights and have fun!

Kelli Stillman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Oct 05 2019
HikingRockyScramble

Being a sweatshirt. High clearance vehicles recommended. Awesome experience.

View Kelli's Recording
Sam Karson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Sep 29 2019
Hiking

5 stars only if you go into the cave, obviously.

View Sam's Recording
Brent Mitchell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Sep 17 2019
Camping

Fun hike. Bring cold weather clothes. It’s between 32 and 40 degrees in the cave

View Brent's Recording
Michael Baggot
Yellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSat Sep 07 2019
Hiking

The dirt road to the trail is closed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (9/6 to 9/8)....don’t drive all the way there to find that out like I did.

Mindy Cuthbertson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Sep 02 2019
Hiking

A little steep and slippery at first but the rest wasn’t bad. I loved that it was nice and cool inside!! Fun and not too long of a hike.

Verity Castleberry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Aug 25 2019
HikingScramble
Claudia Tieman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Aug 17 2019
HikingRocky

Lots of fun! My kids and I loved it!

Gina Gervasi Woyicki
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Aug 02 2019
Hiking

This was a super fun hike! The opening to the cave is a bit steep and there were parts of the trip where the rocks were lose or slick but I wouldn’t say it was difficult. It was interesting to see the different ways the lava formed throughout the cave. Their are places where the clearance is low but very passable. It’s also a really nice drive in. You definitely need a flashlight or a headlamp, it’s is pitch black just a little ways into the cave. Anything that allows you to be hands free would be preferable. It was cool but not cold, I was fine with yoga pants and a t-shirt. I think I would have been uncomfortable in anything heavier.

Mike McGrath
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jul 22 2019
Hiking

Pretty sweet. The 0.4 miles is from the parking lot to the cave entrance and back. GPS is lost once inside the cave. It's actually 0.75 mile deep, 1.5 mile round trip. It's chilly in there compared to the outside (30-40°), but I didn't think a shirt was necessary. We warmed up after some rock hopping and exploring. A lot of loose rocks in there initially, many with wet surfaces, so be careful. A couple areas where the roof is really low and it's necessary to crouch down or crawl. In other areas the roof is 10 feet or higher. A flashlight or headlamp is essential. Some trash lying around in there. Don't be an a-hole; pick up and bring your trash out.

View Mike's Recording
Rachel R.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Jul 20 2019
HikingRockyScramble
View Rachel's Recording
Emily Newell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jul 09 2019
Hiking

This was so fun! The beginning is rocky and pretty wet but once you’re past that it’s easy enough walking. The only bummer was that on our way back a man had lit up a cigarette inside the cave and it reeked of smoke for a long while. Really, who does that?!

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