The lava river cave of Flagstaff, or the “Lava Tubes,” is a remarkable formation. It was created by the will of fiery nature over 675,000 years ago. It stays the same temperature year-round, and has ripples and cracks throughout the pathway. The lava formation spans for 3/4 of a mile, and is the longest cave in all of Arizona.
Is it a breath-taking beauty that should be seen by all human beings everywhere? Not at all. Though it’s climate-controlled and a wonderful relief for summer heat, the cave isn’t particularly remarkable. Thought bats and porcupines are known to inhabit the cave, you may not see any signs of natural wildlife for the entire journey. There are no stalactites, stalagmites, or prized cavern jewels within its bowels. There are some cool glittery ferrous stone features, however.
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It is fun to venture down into complete darkness like you’re Bruce friggin’ Wayne. And the city of Flagstaff is a terrific place to visit. Check out Charly’s pub, a historical eatery with great beer selections, only 20 miles away and in the heart of downtown.
Also be sure to visit the Flagstaff soap company, one of our favorite small businesses.
Visiting the Cave
The lava river cave is an amazing geological site dating back to prehistory. It isn’t anything like the Grand Canyon or the red rocks in Sedona, however. If you do have some time in Flagstaff to explore, and like caves, then go on in there!
Here’s what you must bring:
Headlamp – You may be using your hands to crawl through some tight spaces. Though flashlights help, it will be a lot more manageable with a headlamp.
Warm clothing – The cave is at a perpetual 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Though you do get warm moving around and squatting, be sure to wear something substantial
Water – You don’t want to venture down into a vacuous cavern without water. The entire experience may last 1-2 hours.
Additional non-neccesary items:
Whistle – Just in case. There are many opportunities to injure yourself, between hitting your head on low ceilings and a multitude of slippery rocks. It’s a safe bet to bring a whistle to signal others near the entrance.
Boots – You can complete this trip with cross trainer shoes, but it is a lot better with hiking boots/work boots. The thick sole will protect against jutting rock edges, and you want ankle support for the jagged terrain. Also, regular shoes will probably get torn up. I bought these boots just in time for the hike, and am really glad I did.
DSLR camera – Most of the photos in this article were taken with my own Nikon D3100 (click this link to check it out).
It’s a great, affordable beginner’s camera that will light up the pitch-black inside the cave. Set it to the aperture setting and lower the ISO. Shoot in RAW file format.
P.S. Beware of creepy monkey doll…