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Lava River Cave, Flagstaff

4.7
#5 of 17 in Parks 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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Lava River Cave Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
392 reviews
Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • We visited in January, 2018 before the area had any snow, so the roads were open. Also, we went first thing in the morning and did not run into any other humans until we had returned to the entrance. ...  more »
  • If you like very dark places that you can't even see your hands in front of you and if you have the nerve to venture to the end then this is for you  more »
  • This cave has been left in its original state and worth the short trip out of Flagstaff to experience. Need to be able to climb up and down boulders.  more »
Google
  • This is by far one of the most amazing places that I have ever been to on the planet Earth in my entire life. It is approximately a two-mile hike Underground so it may be a bit rough for small children, however it is doable provided they have good parental assistance. I would advise packing a lot of water Gatorade and snacks with both protein and carbohydrates. Remember this 2-mile hike from start to the end of the underground tunnel and then it is another 2 miles of a hike back to get out of the tunnel. Oh and one last thing, when you get to the "Y" go left, both paths end up connecting anyways but the left path is the easiest to maneuver through!
  • A great little adventure should only take about an hour for a average person! My 6 year-old and I were able to do about half before she wanted to turn back. A lot of smooth, yet ragged rocks to climb over getting in and out. The entrance is fairly steep but once you get down it gets easier. Must take a light or two! There us ZERO ambient light! If you go dark you will need to wait for help. But its fairly popular so you should be ok. Headlamps are highly recommended!
  • Great place to take a long hike. Make sure to wear hiking shoes or boots. Please do not wear tennis shoes or sandles for this place is rough and lots of big rocks to start!! Is a big cave so wear warm clothing if possible for inside is very cold Summer or Winter. Bring a couple of flashlights is very dark. Take Hwy 180 North unto Route 245 for easy access. Bring food and water for this place is isolated and far from any eatery places!! Plenty of parking for small or big trucks. It's waiting for you!!
  • Awesome adventure to take the kids to. No way for them to get lost or fall off a cliff. It was cool enough for older kids and easy enough for my barely 7 year old. We all had a great time
  • Went to visit flagstaff for this reason! The cave is a fun out in the woods adventure for people of all ages! I went with my brother and mother with a total of four flashlights.It's a nice stroll after the initial decent, just watch out for loose rocks inside and the bump floor from the lava. It's a quick hike so unless you're near by or passing though, this might not be something to take a long trip for. This is a good stop over before the Grand Canyon!

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