Flagstaff Lava Tube/Ice Tunnel

We spend the last few days in Flagstaff. Youngest son was participating in a football camp at NAU. His time was spoken for, but the rest of us had some great adventures in Flagstaff.

Before we left I researched what we could do in Flagstaff that would be exciting, adventurous and keep two teenagers busy and off of their electronics. I had heard about the ice cave from a couple of friends and thought this would fit the ticket nicely.

We dropped off youngest son at football and headed NW on the 180 to find this place. We turned onto a dirt Forest Road at Mile Marker 230 and the real adventure started. We went maybe, and I mean maybe a half mile when we came upon the ‘men working’ sign.  Well, the men were working, not on the road mind you, but jump starting the stalled U.S. Forestry Truck.


Then we came to the turn onto Forest Road 171.  Note that the sign says Lava River Cave 2 miles.  Hmmm, it was actually not 2 miles.  We went two miles and the road was so bad we had to put the truck in 4 wheel drive and turn around.  The turnoff is actually 1 mile.

Anyway, we made it to the parking lot.  There were two vehicles in the lot and while we were getting our sweatshirts on and flashlights ready two more trucks pulled into the lot.  Here’s the semi-interesting thing.  We saw about 18 people in the cave and precisely two were females….one was myself and the other was a girl about 10 with her dad and brother.

entrance to the lava tube

DS signing in the book, so in case we got lost the forest service would presumably at some future date

So, down we go into the lava tube. I do want to note that people call this all different names…Ice Cave, Lava Tube, Lava River Tube, Lava River Cave and other variations on that name. As far as I can tell they are all the same place.

The sign said it is 32 – 40 degrees in the cave depending where you are. It didn’t seem that cold, as a matter of fact I had a sweatshirt on and I was hot. No, we didn’t see any ice, which again the sign said there is typically ice inside the entrance. It is cooler in the cave and it is pitch black in the cave, so you do need a flashlight for ever person. Good thing for that flashlight app on my phone which worked great and didn’t drain all my battery.

entrance to cave

see it is dark

some areas of the cave are really low

the halfway point…it is well marked…it’s a dead end

the floor of the cave was rocky and at the beginning and end there were big rocks to climb over

The hike is 1.5 miles….3/4 miles to the dead end and 3/4 miles back.  I highly recommend this hike.  My teenagers gave this their highest rating of ‘it was OK’.  And if you think that that is not a high rating then you do not have teenage boys!  What was not to like…a ride on a dirt road in 4 wheel drive, a cave, flashlights, rocks, and all in total darkness where you have to be careful not to slip on the rocks or hit your head on those low ceiling.  This met the criteria of exciting and keep the teenagers engaged and off of the electronics!  If you are in Flagstaff this excursion is well worth the time and effort!

Walk to the light….coming out of the cave

bye ice cave, lava tube, lava river cave…. see you next time!

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About momof4boyz

I am a stay at home mom of 4 boys ranging in age from 14-20. They are growing up! I have a new hobby - running! I am also President of a non-profit organization.
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