Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lava Beds National Monument, CA

Lava Beds National Monument in the northeast corner of California is a large lava flow that created numerous lava tubes that are now caves. This is the largest concentration of lava tube caves in the United States.
Our off-interstate travel to Lava Beds National Monument takes us across Nevada and briefly up into southern Oregon. This cut on Highway 140 was steep - an 8% grade for several miles that dropped us into the valley. I (Marilyn) was lucky enough to be the driver for this leg of the journey!
Brad (that tiny dot almost in the middle) inside the entrance to Skull Cave, the cave with the largest entrance and a strange line of colour which we can't explain. This cave actually had three lava tubes stacked on top of each other. Several ladder stairs take us down to the bottom level where there is an ice floor year-round. And it's freezing down there. Natives and pioneers used this cave for food storage.
The ceiling inside Golden Dome. These dramatic drips remind me of meringue. Yum!
Brad standing inside the entrance of Sunshine Cave, which has two collapsed sections allowing light into the cave, like a skylight.
Marilyn inside Valentine Cave where lava flowed around columns throughout this cave - strange. We are constantly challenged while hiking through this cave - right or left? Doesn't matter - they both end up on the other side of the column.
Tule (pron. TOO-lee) Lake was drained in the 1800s and forced into reservoirs and canals and the lakebed was turned into rich farmland, which still exists today. Note the lava flow in the foreground. This photo is taken from our hike to the top of Schonchin (pron. SKON-chin) Butte on top of which sits a fire tower used in the summer months.
From Schonchin Butte, we get a fabulous view of Mount Shasta, another fourteener and a currently inactive volcano. It is one of several volcanoes in the Cascade Range - remember Mount St. Helens? It's north of here in the same chain.
Marilyn at the Fleener Chimneys, a spatter cone which spit out chunks of lava that hardened into sharp globs of volcanic rock.
Mammoth Crater is the source of many of the lava tubes in the park. Eruptions occurred as recently as 900 years ago, a blink in geologic time. We look down at the tops of full size trees which are growing at the bottom of this crater.


  1. awesome! We skipped this park, but only because we are headed up that way next summer, so we'll have more time to explore it then.

  2. It is an amazing park, Sue. We could have stayed much longer and explored more of the difficult caves, but wanted to move on to Lassen where we are now because the weather is still good with rain and possible snow expected on Tuesday. Great campground too, very quiet.