Lava River Cave is a lava tube in northern Arizona's Coconino National Forest. At approximately 0.75-mile (1.21 km) long, it is the longest cave of its kind known in Arizona. The cave was discovered by some lumbermen in 1915 and has 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.Put Lava River Cave and other Flagstaff attractions into our Flagstaff trip planner, and watch your holiday take shape.
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 30 feet (9.1 m) to only 2 to 3 feet (0.61 to 0.91 m), although the latter only at a side passage that rejoins the main tunnel. 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 14 miles (23 km) 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.
Lava River Cave reviews
Absolutely one of the best days of my life so let me explain the whole thing before you go watch football since im very young i was obviously scared (were talking under 13 but not saying age) but I.... more
Absolutely one of the best days of my life so let me explain the whole thing before you go watch football since im very young i was obviously scared (were talking under 13 but not saying age) but I.... more »
I loved this hike but it can make you feel very vulnerable. I would highly recommend a head lamp, layered clothing to include gloves and beanie, good solid boots/hiking shoes, and if you have kids in.... more
I loved this hike but it can make you feel very vulnerable. I would highly recommend a head lamp, layered clothing to include gloves and beanie, good solid boots/hiking shoes, and if you have kids in.... more »
A very cool and unique hike if you come prepared. I recommend hiking boots or at least very sturdy shoes. Headlamps are basically a necessity and extra flashlights couldn't hurt. Also it is 55 degrees or below year around so they recommend bringing/wearing layers. The distance is not far but the terrain is tough with lots of scrambling, crouching, and loose footing throughout so it can be challenging. Now that all that's out of the way it's fascinating to see how varied the terrain and effects of the lava rock are and sometimes it feels like a whole other world down there.
I have been here multiple times and it is always great. This last time I brought my five year old son and we made it about .8 miles before he's wanted to turn around. Kids can do it if they like hiking. Take the left tunnel if you have small kids or just want an easier experience. Wear a beanie and gloves in the winter. Your hands will get cold. Head lamps are much better than flashlights because there is scrambling involved and having your hands free makes it much easier and more fun.
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