Best Lava Tubes to Explore in the US

Lava tubes are a type of cave created by molten volcanic lava. For that reason these caves are found in areas of past or present volcanism. Hawaii has many lava tubes to explore as it’s one of the most active volcanic lands on the planet. The western states, which have hundreds of volcanoes and cinder cones created by subduction of tectonic plates, are also home to lava tubes.

Lava tube at Craters of the Moon

Unlike caverns with big rooms which are formed by rock dissolving underground, these lava tubes are typically shaped more like subway tunnels that meander downhill. Liquid lava flowing through lava rock that has already cooled and solidified creates these dark passageways. After the lava stops flowing, we are left with long tubes to explore.

Lighted path at Lava Beds National Monument

Several of the lava tubes listed below have lights and high ceilings so they are safe to walk through without any gear (other than a jacket). Some of the caves are comfortably cool while others are downright cold like ice boxes. The remote unimproved tubes have many places to roll ankles, scrape shins, and bash heads. Before exploring remote lava tubes make sure you are prepared.

Here’s a list of things to pack for caving.

Valley of Fires Recreation Area


List of the Best Lava Tubes in America

1. Flagstaff Lava River Cave, Arizona

2. Lava Beds National Monument, California

3. Pluto’s Cave, California

4. Mojave Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve, California

5. Thurston Lava Tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

6. Bear Trap Lava Tube at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

7. El Malpais National Monument Lava Tubes, New Mexico

8. Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico

9. Lava River Cave at Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Oregon

10. Saddle Butte Lava Tube, Oregon

11. Ape Cave, Washington

12. Guler Ice Cave, Washington


Tube entrance in Hawaii

Rays shining into the Mojave Lava Tube


Related Places

Mountain State
Flagstaff Lava River Cave AZ
Lava Beds National Monument CA
Pluto’s Cave Trail CA
Mojave Lava Tube CA
Mojave National Preserve CA
Thurston Lava Tube HI
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park HI
Bear Trap Lava Tube ID
Craters of the Moon National Monument ID
El Malpais National Monument NM
Valley of Fires Recreation Area NM
Lava River Cave Recreation Site OR
Newberry National Volcanic Monument OR
Saddle Butte Lava Tube OR
Ape Cave Lava Tube WA
Guler Ice Cave Picnic Area WA