There are several caves at Lava Beds National Monument of varying levels of challenges. I would recommend starting with a few easy ones first before taking it to a higher level. The caves do get really shallow at times, sometimes, less than a foot in height, so, don’t go in if you get claustrophobic.
Gears to carry
- Helmet – even a bike helmet would work
- Knee Pads
- Good hiking boots
- A small chart summarizing which caves to do
- Detailed report with maps of the caves
I started with the Balcony cave, it’s an easy fun cave with a 5-minute journey from entry to exit. The exit of Balcony cave is joined to the Boulevard cave, it was another fun cave to explore.
Then I went to a much more challenging Thunderbolt cave, while it takes about 15-minutes to finish, there is a fair bit of crawling required in some portions.
The next one I went to Lava Brooks cave, this isn’t a loop, so, you can decide how far to go before you return. It is short but gets narrower than Thunderbolt cave.
Next, I did the Catacombs cave, this one is extremely long and has tons of side-passages, be careful about going here solo.
Hercules and Jupiter caves are joined to each other. I entered from the Hercules side and exited from the Jupiter side. This is a bit long and it takes about 30-minutes but there are small openings, so, you will see sunlight on a regular basis.
Near to it was a Sentinel cave, I entered from the upper Sentinel side and exited from the lower.
I drove around the park to go to Hopkins Chocolate cave. It is marked challenging but is relatively easy to do.
The last cave I went to is the Golden dome, even though it is marked moderately challenging, I found it to be harder than the Hopkins Chocolate cave.
Overall, I did ten caves in about three and a half hours.