Lava Beds National Monument Park
Lava Beds National Monument Rd, Tulelake, CA, USA
Lava Beds National Monument Park Tulelake Reviews
Caving at Lava Beds National Monument Park Jul 06, 2013
I thought I might want to write a review for Lava Beds National Monument since I couldn’t find a single review or blog here on TB at the time I was doing a research.
This is a national monument park in California which I'm assuming the least explored due to its location. It lies on the remotest northeast part of the State. Most roads into this area wind through mountains and along rivers. If you are not accustomed to such winding roads you might not want to go ahead but I will say the long trip was absolutely worth it! Exploring this one of a kind monument park is one of our most memorable travel experience.
The caves found here were created by flows of smooth lava thousands of years ago from the numerous times of eruption of the mountain/volcano called “Medicine Lake Volcano”. When the lava cooled, caves formed and became homes for unique cave life to thrive like of that fourteen species of insect-eating bats. These fantastic underground worlds can be visited on your own or by guided tour in the summer (we did on our own).
When caving you should:
Go to the visitor center before entering any caves to receive cave information and be screened for White-nose Syndrome, a disease that is killing bats. We got screened at the park entrance.
There are no restrooms inside caves, so use the restroom before entering caves.
Wear appropriate safety gear, including helmet (bicycle helmet will do or other construction helmet). Long pants and closed –toe shoes are highly advised. Wear gloves and knee pads only if you are going for caves that requires crawling through. Crawling through the caves usually happens in the "Most Challenging" caves.
Wear warm clothing, cave temperatures ranges from near freezing to 55 degree Fahrenheit. In the summer you can wear a typical summer clothes but just bring jackets when exploring the caves.
Bring enough light; each person should have at least one flashlight. Flashlights are available at the visitor’s center for no charges!
Pets are not permitted in caves.
Know your route. Observe some landmarks to know what to look for on the way out.
Carry plenty of water while exploring the Lava Beds Park.
There are no food services at the park so it will be good to bring sack lunch. There are plenty of picnic grounds where you can have a lunch break.
Entrance fee for the park is $10.00 and good for one week.
Caves are categorized to “Least Challenging”, “Moderately Challenging” and “Most Challenging”. We explored mostly the least challenging ones.
Here are the names of the lava tube caves we explored and my recommendations:
Mushpot Cave (must) – this is an introductory cave, there are interpretive signs explaining the formation, ecology and cave climate. The cave is lighted, but you could still use a flashlight. If you want to photograph, Mushpot Cave is the best cave for photo op. You have to use a tripod though but this might cause some inconveniences due to the traffic flow.
Big Painted Cave (you can skip this) – An easy 0.75 mile hike is required to reach this cave. There are some Native American pictographs that adorn the entrance area.
Skull Cave (must) – the wide opening of this cave is very impressive and is the best choice for those who are claustrophobic! It is a remnant of three very large lava tubes, one on top of the other. In cold winter time air is trapped inside and creates a year-round ice floor on the lowest level. The lowest level is accessible via a smooth trail, down a metal stairway to a platform. It was called “Skull Cave” because of hearsay two human skeletons were found inside!
Heppe Cave (must just for the frozen pool) – A short walk took us to this very tall twilight-lit cave. In the middle ground of the cave, we found a small pool of solid ice. This cave is very fascinating as we descended into the middle ground part of the cave where the frozen pool is.
Sunshine Cave (must) – Stooping is required in the main passage, and the back section has floors that are steep, rough and wet. Two collapses allow sunlight to enter the cave where abundant vegetation grows. What I like most in this cave are the icicles that adorn the cracks in the ceiling. Sunshine Cave by the way is considered as moderately challenging!
Golden Dome (must for its amazing colors)– We entered the cave via a ladder. The downstream portion of this cave requires some stooping and duck walking but very exciting! The back section where the “Golden Dome” is located is figure -8. This is where we needed to be very careful not to lose our way. The upstream portions of this cave required some crawling but we did not go further.
Valentine Cave (must for its unique formation)– This cave is named for the day it was discovered in 1933! It has a large main passage with smooth lava floors and walls. The entrance is very impressive. There is a huge pillar-like and looks like an hour-glass shape that divides the two entrance tubes. We almost pass on this cave but I’m so glad we push through with it. To me this is one of the caves you wouldn’t want to miss!
There are actually 700 caves that had been discovered in the park but only 20 are open for exploration and out that 20, we’ve managed to explored only 7 caves for two days!
If you are a Californian, it would be illegal not to visit this one truly amazing monument park! (wink wink)
Part of the SUMMER 2013: GREETINGS FROM 5 PARKS! travel blog
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