for free!

Skull Cave - Lava Beds NM, CA

Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
  3 of 5 
7 1 0
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 0.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,564 feet
Elevation Gain 200 feet
Avg Time One Way 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.17
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
7  2009-07-24 AZLOT69
author avatar Guides 176
Routes 247
Photos 8,556
Trips 1,989 map ( 16,471 miles )
Age 71 Male Gender
Location Gold Canyon, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred May, Oct, Jun, Sep → 10 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:04am - 7:19pm
0 Alternative

Go prepared! - Caving Checklist
Jolly Rogers Abode
by AZLOT69

Overview: Over four hundred caves in Lava Beds National Monument yet each with unique features. This is true primarily because the caves were created by many separate events. Geologists peg the first volcanic activity in this area about a million years ago and the most recent activity about 1,000 years ago. Skull cave is an ice cave and is actually one of the largest diameter caves at the monument. This occurred due to one lava tube forming over another lava tube and the original lava tube roof collapsing. It was named for two human skeletons that were found inside. Several other bones were located and later determined to be from bighorn sheep, antelope and mountain goats. This is described as on your own exploration. Be sure to check in at the visitor center for details on any warnings, advisories or closures prior to entering any of the caves. Free loaner flashlights are also available. The monument does offer limited guided and narrated tours of this cave during the summer.

Hike: With a short hike from the trailhead you arrive at what was a catastrophic collapse of the lava caves. It appears as though demolition teams had been experimenting with explosives. The monument has constructed a steel stairway consisting of about eighty stairs over the rubble and down into the existing tube. The trail hugs the right side of the channel of what seems to be a river of rock. The river of rock seems to defy gravity as the wall, ceiling and floor all have the same composition. The dimension of the cavity is 65 feet in diameter but it seems much larger than that. The trail curves around to the right and eventually into total darkness. The trail crosses several crevasses which are bridged by steel walkways. Arriving at a platform, stairs now start another descent. The beam from a standard flashlight can not reach the bottom. Take a leap of faith and start down the stairs. After three flights of stairs, you come to another platform. This platform is completely fenced in. You are about 580 feet from the entrance and the cave is now closed past this point. There is an ice floor all around you. Reportedly at one time the ice was crystal clear. Flashlights reveal the ice but it is a dirty translucent. This was caused by visitors recklessly carrying the dirt and mud on the ice via their shoes resulting in the damage. The monument states this is a temporary closure as they attempt to reverse the damage but it certainly looks like a permanent closure. Return the way you came.

Check out the Triplog.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-08-02 AZLOT69

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$
    National Monument Fee $10-25 per 7 Days

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From the I-5 corridor, take U.S. 97 north at Weed to a right turn on California Hwy. 161, also known as Stateline Road, as shown by large signs. Travel east on CA 161 through the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge to Hill Road. Turn right on Hill Road at the Westside Market, following monument signs. Travel south on Hill Road 10 miles until you enter Lava Beds National Monument. Trailhead is on marked road one mile north of Visitors Center.
    page created by AZLOT69 on Aug 02 2009 5:43 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    Avoid Heat Illness - stay cool

    end of page marker