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Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

Crawl Through A Lava Tube

Lava Beds National Monument has more than 800 lava tube caves, the greatest concentration in North America and is open year-round. In addition, the monument encompasses the main battlefields of the Modoc War of 1872-73 and nearby is the site of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, a Japanese Internment Camp outside Tulelake, California. The monument also includes Petroglyph Point, one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the United States. Stop by the wonderful visitor center provides lanterns, flash lights, and bump hats you’ll need to have a great day of exploration.


Hard-core spelunkers and people wanting to experience the underground world for the first time can find it all at Lava Beds National Monument, which has more than 800 caves that meander a combined distance of more than 28 miles. Flashlights to borrow and advice to remember are available at the park visitor center. Many people start at Mushpot, the only lighted cave. Several of the easier caves are located off the Cave Loop Road while favorites for people with some experience include Valentine, Merrill and Skull caves. People seeking greater challenges should discuss possibilities with park rangers. All cavers should have sturdy shoes or boots, dress in layers and carry back-up lights. Hard-hats are also recommended. Check in at park headquarters for seasonal cave adventures, including reservation-only trips to Fern and Crystal caves and ranger-led cave walks during the summer.

Petroglyph point

There is more Native American rock art at here than anywhere else in California. This formation was created when a volcanic tuff erupted from the floor of ancient Tule Lake to form an island. The early people would paddle out in their boats to carve images into the soft rock. This area is also rich in wildlife as prairie falcons, owls, and Canada geese nest there.


History comes alive as you hike into the historical sites of the Lava Beds National Monument, such as Captain Jack’s Stronghold and the Thomas-Wright Battlefield. Twelve hiking trails are located within the park. Most trails are short. Longer trails will take you into designated wilderness areas. The view from the Schonchin Butte Fire Lookout is well worth the effort to hike up the steep 0.7 mi. trail.

Wildlife overlooks

Stop off at the East and West Wildlife Overlooks to view migratory and resident birds on the waters of Tule Lake.  An abundance of wildlife call the Lava Beds their home, including many species of mammals such as bats, squirrels, bobcats, and mountain lions. Over 15 species of bats inhabit the caves.  Park staff works year-round to monitor and protect the bats and their habitat, the lava tube caves.  This is a birder’s paradise where you may spot prairie falcons, purple martins, sage thrasher and great-horned owls.

Modoc indian war

Lava Beds is most famous as the campsites and battlefields of the Modoc War, 1872-1873. White settlers in both Oregon and California were arguing that the Klamath’s and Modoc’s should be placed on a reservation and the rest of their traditional homelands be made available for settlement. Battles ensued – a small band of the Modoc tribe was besieged by U.S. Army forces outnumbering them by as much as ten to one.