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Lava River Cave - Coconino National Forest

Summary: A stroll through an interesting lava tube.
Directions: From Phoenix take I-17 north to Flagstaff.  Follow Highway 180 north out of Flag to mile post 230.  Turn left onto Forest Road (FR) 245.  Follow 245 3.1 miles to the end where it intersects with FR 171.  Turn left onto 171 (following the sign to Lava River Cave) and follow it 1 mile to FR 171B.  Turn left onto 171B (following the sign) and drive 0.5 miles to the parking area at the end.
Road Conditions: Passenger car if the roads are dry
Navigation: Easy - if you get lost here you may want to rethink your speleology career.
Length: 1.5 miles
Date Hiked: Oct, 2000
Weather Conditions: Cool - year round temps in the tube are 32-40 F.  Bring a jacket or sweater for this one.
Required Skills:
Hike Description: This lava tube was discovered in 1915.  It was formed about 675,000 years ago when molten lava flowed through the earth creating the tube as the outer edges cooled and hardened.   There is a map at the entrance that shows a diagram of the tube.  It is rather linear with one branch that meets up with the main passage a short time later.  The right branch is some what smaller and requires some low ducking to get through, however no crawling is required in the tube (in some places the ceiling is 80 ft. high!).  When you hit the dead end, turn around and head out.
Rating (1-5 stars):
This is a good introduction to caving (without all the crawling and mucking about) and a nice escape from the summer heat.  However, as with any underground excursion extra caution is also required.  Bring three sources of light and spare batteries (it is pitch black in the tube, and would be difficult to impossible to navigate without light).  The lava tube is wet and rocky, wear boots with good traction and ankle support.  As with caves, the lava tube is a closed environment, be considerate to those that follow, do not leave trash or urinate in the tube.
Maps: Coconino National Forest Map
Books: 'The Favorite Hikes, Flagstaff & Sedona', Cosmic Ray
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
No photos were taken on this hike.