If you love hiking in the dark, adventuring in tight spots and the smell of bat guano, then these seven caves are right up your alley. Even if you’re only slightly impressed with rock formations or lava tubes, you’ll love a quick trip to these gems in Northern California.
Make sure to dress in light layers and bring along a small flashlight, bottled water and comfortable walking shoes, then head on out!
1. Lava Beds National Monument Cave - Indian Well Heights
Lava Beds National Monument has numerous lava tube caves, with twenty-five having marked entrances and developed trails for public access and exploration. Lava Beds National Monument includes Petroglyph Point, one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the United States. The region was historically occupied by the Modoc people.
2. Black Chasm Cavern National Landmark - Volcano
Enjoy a 50-minute guided tour, gemstone mining, geode cracking, and gold panning. There's a visitor center featuring a gift shop. They also host school programs and special events offering picnic tables. Come get your fill of stalactites, stalagmites, flow-stones and the vast arrays of rare helictite crystals.
3. Subway Lava Cave - Lassen Volcanic National Park
The park boasts incredible mountain scenery reminiscent of Yosemite as well as fascinating thermal wonders similar to Yellowstone with just a small fraction of the visitors. Explore the underground world of a lava tube. 20,000 years ago lave flowed here. Eventually, the lava drained away, leaving
tube-like caves. The self-guided trail is approximately 1/3 mile long and the cave is completely dark, so don't forget to bring a flashlight!
4. Lake Shasta Caverns - Lakehead
The queen bee of caves is in northern California -- the Lake Shasta Caverns, open year round. Shasta Caverns is ‘Three Adventures in One.’ Enjoy a scenic catamaran cruise across Shasta Lake, then a fun bus ride to the caverns. Geologists consider this one of the most beautiful limestone caves in the USA.
5. California Caverns - Mountain Ranch
The California Caverns were the first caves to become a tourist attraction in the Sierras. Early visitors included Mark Twain and John Muir, who wrote about his visit in his 1894 book. This sweet cavern spot can brag about having the most extensive system of caves and passageways!
6. Moaning Caverns - Vallecito
Discovered in modern times by gold miners in 1851, but it has long been known as an interesting geological feature by prehistoric peoples. It gets its name from the moaning sound that echoed out of the cave luring people to the entrance. Moaning Cavern is also an archaeological site, where some of the oldest human remains known in America were discovered. The cave has long been the resting spot for the bodies of prehistoric people who fell into its opening. So there's that.
7. Mercer Caverns - Murphys
Discovered in 1885, Mercer Caverns is home to a variety of magical cave formations, most notably its world famous array of delicate frost-like crystals known as flos ferri aragonite. It was this crystal that won a grand prize at the 1900 Paris World Exposition. Yeah, they're kind of a big deal.
What about you? Which of these beautiful caverns have you explored? Which ones in Northern California should we all know about?