Lava River Tubes Hike

31 Years!  It has taken us 31 years of living in Flagstaff, AZ to finally make it to the much acclaimed Lava Tubes!  Located 30 miles outside of Flagstaff, AZ, this mile and a half round trip trek into the earth beneath us was very interesting, a little intimidating and incredibly dark, cold and a little slippery at times.

We converged into the parking lot of the Lava Tubes about 11:00 a.m. this morning with 20 international students from the iHouse and Northern Arizona University.  We hiked about a quarter mile before reaching the downward rocky descent into the hole representing the entrance to the Lava Tubes.  I looked at that hole and thought something like, “We are going in there – like how crazy is that – like who would do that?” as I stared at person after person coming out of the cave.  Going down into the hole, I was quickly grateful for my headlamp AND the flashlight on my phone!  We literally crawled through  a hole in the ground, and I began to find good reasons once again for being ‘short’.  The hike was surprisingly long as it gradually leveled off and the only thing that went up and down was the ceiling.  At one point, I had to laugh because we all looked like ducks doing the duck walk under the ceiling overhang.  I remember thinking this was an incredibly long tubelike cave when someone mentioned it was a mile long hike oneway.  I later realized a website saying that it was a mile and a half round trip.

Once the cave opens up, it is amazing to see how high the roof is overhead and how immense the cave is down under.  I was truly fascinated at how this could have happened.  One website said that lava flowed from the volcano cooling on the top and the bottom while the lava continued to flow through the middle creating a hollow tube where the lava once was.  In the large open areas of the cave the ceiling was approximately 25 feet high – that represents a large volume of lava flowing at one time in history.  The website also mentions that the cave was found by lumbermen in the area as far back as 1915.  It has since become a place for tourists and hikers to visit, learn about and experience an amazing geological phenomenon and wonder.

I can now say that I have been one of those hikers and that I too have experienced this geological wonder.  If you are thinking of going to this cool spot, be sure and dress warm.  The cave can be approximately between 40-55 degrees inside the cave.  Be sure you have good hiking shoes as the ground is lava rock and can be very uneven with loose rock to navigate.  Always take water and food and be sure and have adequate lighting sources.  One group we encountered had camping lanterns they carried.

We had a lot of fun, and I think you would too!  It is rated as a family friendly and kid friendly hike but one does need to take every precaution and be prepared to walk slowly and deliberately through the cave with its uneven flooring and slippery wet areas.  If you enjoy hiking and you don’t mind caves, try this one out and let us know how you liked it!  Don’t wait 31 years – let us see you soon!

Be sure and remember that Team Tait sent you!

By Leslie Crawley, Assistant to Jacki Tait







For more information about the Lava River Tubes click here!

Posted in About Flagstaff.

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