Lava River Trail In Oregon

Here is everything you need to know about the Lava River Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Oregon
  • Length: 0.5 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: US Forest Service
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website:

The Lava River Trail, located in the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon, holds a significant place in the region’s history. The trail follows a unique lava tube cave formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The cave was created when a massive lava flow from the Newberry Volcano cooled and solidified on the surface while the molten lava continued to flow beneath, eventually emptying out and leaving behind a long, hollow tube.

The history of the Lava River Trail dates back to the volcanic eruptions that occurred in the area around 80,000 years ago. The Newberry Volcano, one of the largest shield volcanoes in the United States, erupted and spewed out a massive amount of lava, covering the landscape for miles. As the lava flowed, it formed a natural tunnel that stretches for approximately 5,211 feet, making it the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon.

Over time, the Lava River Trail has attracted explorers, scientists, and curious visitors who are fascinated by its geological significance. In the early 1900s, the cave was used by locals for various purposes, including as a source of ice during the summer months. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the cave gained more attention as a tourist attraction. The Forest Service recognized its unique features and opened it to the public, providing a safe and accessible trail for visitors to explore the lava tube.

Today, the Lava River Trail stands as a testament to the volcanic history of the region and offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the awe-inspiring natural wonder. As visitors traverse the trail, they can witness the remnants of ancient lava flows, marvel at the intricate rock formations, and gain a deeper understanding of the geological forces that shaped the landscape. The Lava River Trail continues to be a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike, providing a glimpse into the fascinating history of volcanic activity in central Oregon.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Lava River Cave Trailhead: This is the main access point for the Lava River Trail. It is located off Forest Road 1717, about 13 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona.

2. Lava River Cave Entrance: The trail starts at the entrance of the Lava River Cave, which is a lava tube formed by volcanic activity. This is where hikers can enter the cave and begin their journey along the trail.

3. Lava River Cave Exit: The trail ends at the exit of the Lava River Cave. Hikers can exit the cave and continue their hike back to the trailhead or explore other nearby trails.

4. Bonito Lava Flow Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Bonito Lava Flow, which is a large expanse of lava rock. It is a popular starting point for hikers who want to explore the Lava River Trail.

5. Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument Visitor Center: Although not directly on the Lava River Trail, the visitor center serves as an important access point for information and permits related to the trail. It is located near the trailhead and provides visitors with valuable resources before starting their hike.

6. Cinder Hills Overlook: This overlook provides a panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic landscape, including the Lava River Trail. It is a great spot to get a sense of the trail’s location and plan your hike accordingly.

7. O’Leary Peak Trailhead: This trailhead is located near O’Leary Peak, which is a volcanic cone in the area. While it is not directly on the Lava River Trail, it can serve as an alternative access point for hikers who want to explore the trail from a different starting point.

Note: The Lava River Trail is a linear trail, so hikers typically start at the Lava River Cave Trailhead and end at the same point. The other access points mentioned above are optional starting points or nearby landmarks that can enhance the overall hiking experience.

Transportation Available

1. Uber – On-demand ridesharing service.
2. Lyft – Ride-hailing service available in the area.
3. Taxi – Traditional taxi service for transportation needs.
4. Rental Car – Various car rental agencies in the vicinity.
5. Shuttle Service – Shuttle service offering transportation to and from the Lava River Trail.
6. Public Bus – Local bus service with routes near the trail.
7. Bike Rental – Bike rental shops for exploring the area on two wheels.
8. Walking – The trail is accessible by foot for those who prefer walking.


The amenities available at the Lava River Trail may vary, but typically include:

1. Restrooms: There are usually restroom facilities available at the trailhead or nearby.

2. Parking: There is usually a designated parking area or parking lot available for visitors.

3. Camping Sites: Some trails may have designated camping sites nearby or along the trail. However, it is important to check with the local authorities or park management for any specific regulations or permits required for camping.

4. Picnic Areas: There may be designated picnic areas or picnic tables along the trail or at the trailhead where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack.

5. Information Boards: Information boards or signs may be available at the trailhead or along the trail, providing visitors with information about the trail, its history, and any safety precautions.

6. Trail Markers: The trail may have markers or signs along the way to guide visitors and ensure they stay on the designated path.

7. Benches or Seating: Some trails may have benches or seating areas along the way, providing visitors with a place to rest or enjoy the surroundings.

8. Trash Receptacles: To maintain cleanliness, there may be trash receptacles available at the trailhead or along the trail for visitors to dispose of their waste properly.

It is always recommended to check with the local park management or authorities for the most up-to-date information on the amenities available at the Lava River Trail.

Nearby Services

1. Lodging:
– Lava River Cave Campground – Campground located near the trail entrance.
– Flagstaff KOA Journey – RV park and campground with amenities, a short drive away.

2. Food Services:
– Lumberyard Brewing Company – Local brewery and restaurant offering a variety of food options.
– Macy’s European Coffee House – Cozy café serving coffee, pastries, and light meals.

3. Emergency Services:
– Flagstaff Medical Center – Full-service hospital providing emergency medical care.
– Flagstaff Police Department – Local law enforcement agency for any emergencies or assistance needed.

Lava River Trail Difficulty Notes

The Lava River Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty for hikers. The trail spans approximately 1.5 miles and is mostly flat, making it accessible for individuals of various fitness levels. However, the trail does require navigating over uneven lava rocks and boulders, which can pose a challenge for some. Additionally, the trail lacks shade, making it particularly strenuous during hot summer months. Overall, while the Lava River Trail is not overly demanding, it does require a certain level of physical fitness and caution to navigate the rugged terrain successfully.

Features And Attractions

1. Lava River Cave: The trail itself is a lava tube cave, which offers a unique and fascinating geological experience. The cave is over a mile long and provides a glimpse into the volcanic history of the area.

2. Lava Butte: Located near the trail, Lava Butte is a cinder cone volcano that offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can hike to the top and enjoy breathtaking vistas of the lava fields and nearby mountains.

3. Newberry National Volcanic Monument: This monument encompasses a vast area of volcanic activity and features numerous scenic views and natural landmarks. It includes lava flows, cinder cones, and volcanic lakes such as Paulina Lake and East Lake.

4. Big Obsidian Flow: A short distance from the Lava River Trail, the Big Obsidian Flow is a massive lava flow composed of shiny black obsidian. It is a unique sight and offers a chance to explore the area’s volcanic history.

5. Deschutes National Forest: The Lava River Trail is located within the Deschutes National Forest, which is known for its stunning natural beauty. The forest is home to numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic viewpoints.

6. Benham Falls: Located on the Deschutes River, Benham Falls is a picturesque waterfall that can be accessed via a short hike from the Lava River Trail. The falls offer a beautiful spot for picnicking and photography.

7. Tumalo Falls: Another stunning waterfall in the area, Tumalo Falls is located a short drive from the Lava River Trail. The waterfall cascades down a 97-foot drop and is surrounded by lush forest, making it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

8. Pilot Butte: Situated in Bend, Oregon, Pilot Butte is an extinct volcano that offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Visitors can hike to the summit and enjoy breathtaking vistas of the area.

9. Smith Rock State Park: Although not directly along the Lava River Trail, Smith Rock State Park is a must-visit destination nearby. It features towering cliffs, deep canyons, and the scenic Crooked River, making it a popular spot for rock climbing, hiking, and photography.

10. High Desert Museum: Located near the trail, the High Desert Museum is an educational and cultural institution that showcases the natural and cultural history of the region. It offers exhibits, live animal displays, and beautiful outdoor trails.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
– Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
– Camping or overnight stays are not permitted along the trail.
– Open fires and smoking are strictly prohibited.
– Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
– Respect seasonal closures or restrictions that may be in place.
– Do not disturb or remove any natural or cultural resources.
– Pack out all trash and leave no trace of your visit.
– Be aware of potential hazards such as uneven terrain, wildlife, and extreme weather conditions.
– Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at the trailhead or along the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Lava River Trail, located in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon, offers a unique and captivating experience for outdoor enthusiasts. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the summer and early fall months, typically from June to September. During this time, the weather is generally pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 27 degrees Celsius). The trail is open and accessible, allowing visitors to explore the fascinating lava tube cave system.

However, it is important to note that the Lava River Trail is subject to seasonal closures due to weather conditions. The trail is typically closed during the winter months, from October to May, as heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures make it unsafe for visitors. It is crucial to check with the Deschutes National Forest or local authorities for the most up-to-date information on trail closures before planning a visit.

When the trail is open, visitors can embark on a remarkable journey through the ancient lava tube cave. The trail is a mile long and takes approximately one hour to complete. Inside the cave, visitors can witness the unique geological formations, such as stalactites and stalagmites, created by lava flows thousands of years ago. The temperature inside the cave remains cool throughout the year, so it is advisable to bring warm clothing, even during the summer months.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Lava River Trail are during the summer and early fall when the weather is pleasant and the trail is open. However, it is essential to be aware of the seasonal closures during the winter months. Exploring the lava tube cave system is a fascinating experience, allowing visitors to witness the remarkable geological formations shaped by ancient lava flows.


1. Wheelchair Accessibility: The Lava River Trail is not wheelchair accessible due to its rugged terrain and uneven surfaces.
2. ADA Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near the trailhead for visitors with disabilities.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are provided at the trailhead to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
4. Trailhead Accessibility: The trailhead area is designed to be accessible, with paved pathways and ramps for easy navigation.
5. Informational Signage: ADA-compliant signage is placed along the trail, providing information and directions in accessible formats.
6. Assistance Animals: Service animals are allowed on the trail to assist individuals with disabilities.
7. Benches and Rest Areas: Benches and rest areas are strategically placed along the trail, providing opportunities for individuals with mobility limitations to take breaks.
8. Trail Width: The trail is wide enough to accommodate mobility devices, allowing individuals with disabilities to traverse the path comfortably.
9. Trail Surface: The trail surface is compacted dirt, which may pose challenges for wheelchair users but can be navigated with assistance.
10. Trail Length: The Lava River Trail is approximately 1.2 miles long, making it a manageable distance for individuals with mobility limitations.
11. Trail Grade: The trail has a relatively flat grade, ensuring a more accessible experience for individuals with mobility challenges.
12. Trail Obstacles: While the trail may have some natural obstacles like rocks and tree roots, efforts are made to clear the path and ensure a smoother experience for all visitors, including those with disabilities.

Safety Information

1. Wear appropriate footwear: Sturdy hiking boots are recommended to navigate the uneven and rocky terrain of the Lava River Trail safely.
2. Carry enough water: Due to the lack of shade along the trail, it is crucial to bring an ample supply of water to stay hydrated.
3. Dress in layers: The temperature inside the lava tube can be significantly cooler than outside, so wearing layers allows for easy adjustment to the changing conditions.
4. Use a headlamp or flashlight: The lava tube is pitch black, so a reliable light source is essential for visibility and safety.
5. Watch your step: The trail can be uneven and slippery, so it’s important to pay attention to your footing and take caution while walking.
6. Stay on the designated path: Straying from the marked trail can be dangerous and potentially damage the fragile lava formations.
7. Be aware of falling rocks: The lava tube is a natural environment, and loose rocks can occasionally fall from the ceiling, so be cautious and avoid lingering under unstable areas.
8. Respect wildlife and vegetation: The Lava River Trail is home to various plant and animal species, so it’s important to observe from a distance and avoid disturbing the natural habitat.
9. Check weather conditions: Before embarking on the trail, ensure that there are no severe weather warnings or hazardous conditions that could affect your safety.
10. Hike with a buddy: It’s always recommended to hike with a companion, especially in remote areas, to ensure mutual support and assistance in case of emergencies.

Conservation Notes

The Lava River Trail is a unique natural feature located in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon, United States. As a conservation area, it is of significant importance due to its geological and ecological characteristics. The trail is situated within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which was established in 1990 to protect and preserve the volcanic landscape and its associated resources.

The conservation status of the Lava River Trail is considered to be well-maintained and protected. Efforts have been made to minimize human impact on the fragile volcanic environment, ensuring the preservation of its natural features. The trail is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which has implemented various measures to promote conservation and sustainability.

Visitors to the Lava River Trail are encouraged to follow specific guidelines to minimize their impact on the ecosystem. These guidelines include staying on designated paths, refraining from littering, and respecting the natural surroundings. By adhering to these guidelines, visitors contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts and help maintain the trail’s ecological integrity.

Overall, the conservation status of the Lava River Trail is considered to be in good condition. The collaborative efforts of the U.S. Forest Service and visitors alike have played a crucial role in preserving this unique volcanic landscape for future generations to enjoy while ensuring the protection of its natural resources.

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