Lava River Cave Review by greatparks

Review

The lava river cave is amazing. The entrance is steep, and one has to watch one's step virtually the entire way, but the unique sights and atmosphere make up for it.

First, getting to the cave. The drive here involves bumpy dirt roads, and in our case, waiting for a few cows to cross the road. The trailhead itself offers no amenities other than a few signs.

The day we visited (a Saturday in July), the parking lot was packed. I had expected maybe 5-10 other people at the cave, given its relative remoteness, but there were single (extended) families of 10. I imagine this was one of the more crowded days of the year. Even so, the farther we hiked in the cave, the fewer and fewer people we saw. On the second half of our hike (past the bifurcating paths), the light from our lanterns was the often the only light we could see in the cave.

The opening to the cave is slightly east of the parking lot. The cave's mouth is literally "cool" - cold air from the cave blows out of it, creating an air-conditioning-like effect.

The beginning stage of the cave is the most difficult part: scrambling down, down, into the ground. Sunlight is lost quickly; it's ideal to carry at least one hands-free light source.

After the steep beginning, the rest of the cave surface is fairly flat. However, there are a variety of different kinds of footing: a smooth, slippery stone (sometimes with ice), cracked pieces of the smooth stone, and bumpy, easier to walk on rock.

There are a few places where the roof of the cave narrows to only a few feet. One of these places is the right-hand path (coming from the entrance) where the cave briefly splits into two sections. I did not enjoy ducking down so low, and even crawling. But other than this section, and another section later on, for the most part, it is possible to walk upright most of the way.

The day we visited, we saw many families with very young children attempting the cave. Most seemed to manage it, but I would recommend the cave only for children who are able to control their motions well. My 12-year old son had no problem hiking the full length of the cave; my 9 year-old daughter would have had no problem, either. I would not have brought them if they were younger than 7 or 8, though.

Please be advised, the cave is quite cool; wear long pants and a jacket or sweater.

Rating

5

Best Things About This Park

Being inside the cave was a unique experience.

Things I Would Change

I wouldn't recommend it for the very young (under 8) or the out-of-shape.

Cool Things Nearby

Coconino National Forest, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff...