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Lava River Cave, Flagstaff

4.7
#1 of 8 in Wildlife in Flagstaff
Lava River Cave is a lava tube cave in northern Arizona's Coconino National Forest. At approximately 0.75mi long, it is the longest cave of this kind known in Arizona. The cave was discovered by some lumbermen in 1915. The cave has also historically been referred to as "Government Cave" due to its location on the eastern edge of Government Prairie and southeast of Government Peak. Today, Lava River Cave is freely accessible to the general public.Geologists believe the cave was formed sometime between 650,000 and 700,000 years ago when molten lava erupted from a volcanic vent in nearby Hart Prairie. The top, sides and bottom of the flow cooled and solidified, while lava in the middle flowed out, leaving a hollow space to form the cave. Examples of both ʻAʻā and Pāhoehoe basaltic lava can be seen in the cave.The cave is mostly dry, but due to the temperature change, there is a lot of condensation on the walls, ceiling and floor near the entrance, which makes it slippery. Temperatures inside are around 40°F (5°C) during the summer, and it is not uncommon for some of the rocks to be covered with ice. The cave can range in height from to only 2to. There are no light sources inside. It is recommended visitors have sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing, and multiple sources of light.Litter and graffiti have been problems since the late 1960s. A major restoration effort was organized in May 1991. Almost all the litter was packed out and much of the graffiti removed at that time. Dogs should not be taken in the cave since there are only limited and very slow biological processes to render their urine and feces unobjectionable.The entrance to the cave is around west of Flagstaff, Arizona. Being in Coconino National Forest, the cave is managed by the United States Forest Service. While the cave is open year round, the dirt roads which lead there may be impassable to cars in winter months or during wet weather conditions. There are no entrance or use fees.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
369 reviews
Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • August 14, 2017
    This is NOT an adventure for the handicapped or feeble. The entrance is a steep climb down over a mound of rocks, and the ones near the cave entrance are wet. We went on a lark, but thankfully had our...  more »
  • August 13, 2017
    This is awesome. It's 5$ per car and takes a few hours. I did it with my 6 year old and he did fine but I had to carry my 2 year old. Bring a good light, 2 dollar Walmart lights where not cutting it, ...  more »
  • August 8, 2017
    We had the best of intentions to enter the cave, but neglected to bring a flashlight. We could have used our cell phones, but the best option is a hands free devise, a headset, as you will likely need...  more »
Google
  • July 5, 2017
    Best hike I have ever been on. Make sure you bring a flashlight other then your phone. Also male sure you have very good shoes. I would say it is a moderate difficult level. With the start being a little steep and very rocky. There are also areas where you have to crouch down for a bit. This is something I would do again.
  • May 4, 2017
    Fantastic. Exotic. Scary but probably very safe. Feels adventurous. I've been in the cave 4-5 times over the years and it's been fun every time. Bring a flashlight! Wear hood shoes made for walking or biking because its slippery. Enjoy the oddities of a cave!
  • June 6, 2017
    This was an amazing experience! Make sure to bring a headlamp though, makes for a better walk. We were the only two people when we went, which made it more interesting in our experience. Definitely recommend going here.
  • June 13, 2017
    This is a great place to explore! The cave entrance is a bit precarious, especially when ice is present, but once you get past the first part, the cave opens up. At some places the ceiling is 20 - 30 feet high. Loose rocks throughout the cave. Wear strong and supportive footware. Note there is no restroom facilities.
  • June 20, 2017
    Very cool underground cave. Different than any cave i have been in before. fairly strenuous to get into the cave, but after you are down there the walking is easy to moderate. Cave is about 3/4 mile long.

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Flagstaff's diverse assortment of hotels and motels provides all the amenities you need to relax after a long day adventuring. The city is home to a number of luxury bed and breakfasts complete with jetted tubs and fireplaces. Budget-friendly bed and breakfasts have fewer facilities and are often farther out of town, but boast plenty of charm and character. If you like the outdoors, take advantage of the city's mountain surroundings and pitch a tent at a campground in nearby Kaibab National Forest.
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