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Lava River Cave, Flagstaff

4.7
#4 of 10 in Nature in Flagstaff
Cave Wildlife Area
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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Where to stay in Flagstaff

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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351 reviews
Google
4.7
  • It's not that hard to find, not that far, maybe a mile, off of the main road...Highway 180. It's down a well kept dirt road. Watch the entrance. It's steep, and when I was there, still wet and icy, an...  more »
  • We attempted to hike the cave, but with the total darkness (yes we had flashlights), ice in the cave and the size of the bolders you had to cross, we decided it wasn't worth a broken arm or leg, so we...  more »
  • Have a child that is curious and loves geology? Or just curious? Or seeking something they may never do again? This is an amazing adventure into a 650K old tunnel, formed by magma flows into a tunnel....  more »
Google
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.