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This Underground Hike In Arizona Will Take You Through A Lava Tube

Suny Errot



Many outdoor adventures are available for the thrill-seekers in Arizona. We’re sure that you are already familiar with lots of cool places, including a hidden spring in the Grand Canyon, considered the deadliest in the world. Of course, if you want something less intense, you still have other options. If you don’t want to risk your health, and still want to experience an awesome time, make sure you explore this secret one-mile-long lava tube in Arizona!

Take the Pitch-Black Adventure

This mile-long lava tube in Arizona dates back to 700,000 years ago when a volcanic vent nearby Hart Prairie erupted and spew molten rock over this place.

The top, sides, and bottom of the flow cooled down and solidified first. Then, the insides of the lava river continued to flow, emptying the present cave.

Many visitors who visited this lava tube can attest to the fact that it is pitch black about 300 feet in. So, you definitely need to bring your flashlights and headlamps for safety purposes. Hikers are requested to be extra careful because it can also be a little tricky to get in and out.

Note: While it is a relatively intermediate hike and is easy to navigate, tall people better anticipate tight spots! The rocks inside are always sharp and slippery, too.

A Fun Daytime Hiking Trip With Family and Friends

Just by the first two pictures alone, you’d think this is an adventure worth doing. That’s where you’re right! You’re sure to have a great time going down in this cave. In fact, this lava tube in Arizona is recognized as a precious natural museum and a moment frozen in time. People who are into history and geology will surely fall in love! Enter and explore the lava tube under Flagstaff’s ponderosa pines and experience one of the best parts of your vacation!

Once inside this lava tube cave in Arizona, you will see icicles hanging from above and some small wave-like undulations on the floor, which pretty much look like frozen lava ripples. Hikers will encounter wide and spacious passages with ceilings that are over 30 feet tall. However, there are also smaller passages with ceilings as low as 3 feet (warning for the claustrophobic).

Choose the Path You Want to Take

The lava tube in Arizona has a famous split passageway. It is up to you what path to take. But just so you know, the passage to the right also loops around to the passage on the left. Then, it will continue another quarter mile or so. The right passage requires more crawling and ducking, so we recommend taking the left passage if you want something easier. 

Lava River Tube Hike Arizona
Source: Lava River Tube Hike | Jose Luis Muñoz & Mireya Mirabella

Visitors may hike the secret lava tube in Arizona all year-round and for FREE, but you need to be wary of the guidelines. Forest Roads 245 and/or 171 may be closed during winter so you may need to ski your way to Lava River Cave from US 180. The roads may also be closed when it is too muddy. Note: It’s about a 4.5-mile hike one way.

What to Pack for the Secret One-Mile Underground Hike

  • At least 3 sources of light. You may carry 2 flashlights and gear up with a headlamp. Some visitors use the torchlight from their mobile phones but it is not advisable. *It’s better to bring many sources of light in case it fails to work.
  • Proper hiking shoes. Much better if you have trail shoes with lugs designed for traction and grip.
  • Warm clothes. You should keep in mind that the temperatures inside the cave remain roughly the same for summer and winter seasons, between 35° and 45° Fahrenheit. Remember to dress warmly and appropriately for the outdoor activity. You may bring additional clothes you want to change in if you will.
  • Water. It’s best if you carry your own hydration bottle so you can just recharge if you get thirsty while inside the lava tube cave.

How to Get Here

Location: The famous lava tube cave in Arizona is located about 14 miles north of Flagstaff on paved highways and graveled Forest Roads. Travelers can expect an estimated travel time of 45 minutes.

The Drive: To get here, drive 9 miles north of Flagstaff (US 180) and turn west when you reach FR 245 at milepost 230. Continue the drive 3 miles to FR171. Then, turn south 1 mile to where the FR 171B turns left a short distance to the Lava River Cave.

GPS (Map): 35°20’32.2″N 111°50’08.2″W

Learn more about this beautiful lava tube in Arizona from the U.S. Forest website.

What can we say? A trip to this lava tube in Arizona already ticks off three things from every outdoor lover’s bucket list: cool cave, scenic drive, and appreciation for a natural museum! Let us know what you think about this destination by commenting down below.