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12 of the Best and Awe-Inspiring Oregon Caves

By | Last Updated : 27th January 2020

Intrepid travelers from around the world look for enthralling excitements not only on the surface of the earth but also in the deep underground caves and caverns.  Some of the breathtaking natural marvels of Oregon allure scores of explorers to unshackle the enthusiasm in the fascinating and intimidating subterranean caves.

Caves in Oregon

Caves in Southern Oregon

1. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, Josephine County

Caves in Oregon National Monument and Preserve

Best Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve to Explore

This is a conservation area located in the northern part of the Siskiyou Mountains in southern Oregon, just 19.7 miles from Cave Junction. Besides, the caves are located 55 miles southwest of Grants Pass city. The park encompasses an area of 4,554-acres. The cave is a karst cave formed by marble deposits and includes intricate passageways measuring about 15,000 feet in length. The original limestone formations were transformed into marble by geological processes through a period of 190 million years. One of the prime attractions is the soda and column straw formations artistically formed inside the caverns. The cave is also known as the ‘Marble Halls of Oregon,’ and include four major cave tours. Among these, are the Discovery Cave Tour of 90 minutes, Candlelight Cave Tour of 60 minutes, and the Off-Trail Caving Tour of nearly 3 hours.

Activities: Cave touring, hiking, camping, and photography

Best time to visit: March-November (remains closed: December-February)

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2. Derrick Cave, Lake County

Derrick Caves in Oregon

Derrick Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Derrick Caves in Oregon

This is a lava tube cave situated in the isolated northwestern corner of Lake County in southern Oregon. The 1,134-feet long cave deemed to be the third-longest lava cave features several volcanic formations like lava tubes and vents. Multiple levels of the cave, along with skylights and a sandy floor, can be witnessed on the northeastern portion of the cavern. The entrance to the cave is at the height of 4,960-feet above the sea level.

Activities: Lava cave hiking

Best time to visit: All round the year

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3. Paisley Cave, Lake County

Paisley Caves in Oregon

Paisley Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Paisley Cave in Oregon

This cave system consists of eight caves in the dry zone of south-central Oregon along the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway. These remote caves are situated in the Summer Lake basin at the height of 4,520 feet. One of the eight caves showcases the fossilized remains of the oldest human habitation in North America.

Activities: Cave hiking

Best time to visit: All round the year

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Caves in Central Oregon

4. Skylight Cave, Deschutes County

Skylight Caves in Oregon

Skylight Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Skylight Cave in Oregon

This is a lava tube cave falling inside the Deschutes National Forest and situated at about 10 miles west of the city of Sisters in central Oregon. The mesmerizing hidden beauty named after its three unique natural skylights appearing through the 25-feet high roof opening in the eastern portion of the cave. The glittering sunlight shines down into the cave through these natural openings.  The skylight cave can be entered by a steel ladder placed in a broken-down section of the roof. The temperature of the cave stays cool at 40OF in the summer months.

Activities: Cave hiking

Best time to visit: June-September (8-11 a.m.) (remains closed: October-May)

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5. Lava River Cave, Deschutes County

Lava River Caves in Oregon

Lava River Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Lava River Cave in Oregon

This is a mile-long lava tube situated 12 miles south of Bend in central Oregon. It falls inside the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and is a part of the Deschutes National Forest. The northwest section of the subterranean area has the most extended continual lava tube in Oregon with an astounding length of 5,211 feet. One of the most uncommon portions of the cave is the Sand Garden situated at about 3,000-feet from the entrance, where the floor is filled with sand. The temperature inside the subterranean zone is always constant at 42OF. Lanterns are available on a rental basis, while battery-powered lights are the best providing lights for about an hour.

Activities: Cave hiking

Best time to visit: June-September (remains closed: October-May)

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6. Redmond Cave, Deschutes County

Redmond Caves in Oregon

Redmond Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Redmond Cave in Oregon

Redmond Caves are a system of five caves formed when a single lave tube broke down in the Newberry Caldera. The caves fall within the Redmond Caves Park in Redmond city within central Oregon and are a part of the Horse Lava Tube System. Among the mesmerizing caves, Caves 1, 3, and 4 are easily approachable by a broad network of passageways. While the Caves 2 and 5 are both shallow and confined. The Bureau of Land Management manages the caves and caverns. The explorer should come equipped with flashlights for a self-guided caving tour.

Activities: Cave hiking

Best time to visit: All round the year

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7. Boyd Cave, Deschutes County

Boyd Caves in Oregon

Boyd Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Boyd Cave in Oregon

This is an 1880-feet lava tube formed in the shape of a cave and falls inside the Deschutes National Forest. It is situated on the northern part of Newberry Volcano, and 20 miles southeast of Bend city in central Oregon. The 1.1 miles cave can be entered through a metal staircase from a small opening in the roof. The temperature within the cave stays at a chilling 42OF. The traveler visiting the cave should be equipped with flashlights, encountering a thrilling journey of flat passageways to uneven rock climbing, and even a spine-chilling crawl of 8 to 10 feet in length.

Activities: Lava tube hiking

Best time to visit: All round the year

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8. Skeleton Cave,  Deschutes County

Skeleton Caves in Oregon

Skeleton Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Skeleton Cave in Oregon

This cave is a lava tube falling inside the Deschutes National Forest. It is situated in the northern part of the Newberry Volcano near  to the city of Bend in central Oregon. The 3,560-feet long cave was discovered in 1924, getting its name from several fossilized remains of animals, including giant bear, horse, lynx, rodents, and deer. The central cave passageway includes  side passages traversing deep into a section named as Bear Passage. This same walkway consists of numerous skeletal remains and bone dust of prehistoric animals. On the ceiling of the cave, the tourists can witness a variety of stalactites, known as lavacicles. The temperature within the cavern is around 43OF. Skeleton cave was also known as “The Party Cave,” as spray-painted drawings, and bolts, chalk lines left by the explorers got stockpiled on the cave walls and ceilings. Skeleton Cave is only approachable by a guided tour operated by Wanderlust Tours.

Activities: Lava tube hiking

Best time to visit: June-September (remains closed: mid October-April)

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9. Arnold Ice Cave, Deschutes County

Arnold Ice Caves in Oregon

Arnold Ice Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Arnold Ice Cave in Oregon

Arnold Ice Cave was initially known as the “Crook County Ice Caves,” as the ice was extracted for commercial uses in the city of Bend. It is located 12 miles southeast of Bend in central Oregon. As the name of the cave implies, the groundwater flows through the penetrable lava rock and freezes in the subterranean cavern. With 19 caves in total, the 4.5 miles long Arnold Ice cave system is a part of the lava tube structure that forms some other caves like the Skeleton, Boyd, Lava River, Charcoal, and Wind Caves, amongst others. These unique lava tube caves were created as the upper layer of the basalt lava flow was exposed to air. Then, the air-cooled the lava, gradually solidifying to form the caves. The weather inside the cave stays anywhere between 35-50oF.

Activities: Lava cave hiking

Best time to visit: May-September (remains closed: November-mid April)

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10. Fort Rock Cave, Lake County

Best Fort Rock Cave in Oregon

Fort Rock Caves to Explore in Oregon Fort Rock Caves in Oregon

Fort Rock Cave is situated about 1.5 miles west of Fort Rock near the Fort Rock State Natural Area in central Oregon. The cave was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was previously known as the Cow and Menkenmaier Cave. Some fossilized remains of 9,000 to 11,000-year-old sandals made from aromatic herbs can be found inside the cave system, which makes the site archeologically important to the visitors, so it is only available by guided tours under the state park authorities every summer.

Activities: Cave hiking

Best time to visit: June-August

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Caves in Northern Oregon

11. Boca Cave, Marion County

Boca Caves in Oregon

Boca Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Boca Cave in Northern Oregon

This cave is a hidden jewel located on the boundary of Mount Jefferson Wilderness area in the central Cascade Range of northern Oregon. It is situated near the city of Detroit. The unique location of the cave renders the explorers to take a short hike to witness the nearby Triangulation Peak. This peak is the focal point to observe the majestic views of Mount Hood towards the north, and also the Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, and the Three Sisters towards the south. The cave itself can be hiked by intrepid travelers, as it too dark inside, and visitors should get flashlights for hiking. The interiors of the cave extend further into a roomy arched space.

Activities: Cave hiking, rock climbing

Best time to visit: June-August

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Caves in Western Oregon

12. Sea Lion Caves, Lane County

Sea Lion Caves in Oregon

Sea Lion Caves to Explore in Oregon Best Sea Lion Cave in Western Oregon

This cave is situated 11 miles north of Florence on the U.S. Highway 101 in the Lane County within western Oregon. The cave gets its name from scores of Steller’s sea lions or northern sea lions relaxing and hauling in the cave premises. The west-side entrance to the seal cave is a short high walkway, which is washed during the high tides in the ocean. Another access is at the north side of the seal cave located 50 feet above the ocean level and provides an upraised watching  point for the entire cavern along with its wildlife. The travelers can get access to the subterranean zone through a gift shop building but have to descend over 200 feet to get an impressive view of the cave area.  The cave zone falls within a privately managed wildlife reserve and bird sanctuary. Moreover, the visitor can visit the popular whale observation point at the height of 300 feet, situated below the gift shop offering an ocean view of about 20 miles.

Activities: Wildlife watching

Best time to visit: November-March

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The breathtaking beauty of the Oregon caves seems to be never-ending, waiting to capture the adventurous minds of all daunting explorers from around the world. Apart from the list of caves discussed above, other mind-blowing caves are the Sandy Glacier caves located at Mount Hood, legendary Lost Crystal caves of central Oregon, mysterious lava tube Malheur cave at Princeton, and Hidden Forest cave in the mid-central desert region of Oregon. Thus, these caves have captured the passion and emotion of all the cave fanatics willing to discover the unknown subterranean realms.

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