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Deep Views at Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument offers visitors a vast honeycomb of caves glistening with ice formations, colorful bacteria, and, of course, bats.

cave entrance at Lava Beds National Monument, picture
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Photo: Neil Lockhart/Shutterstock
Photo caption
A cave entrance at Lava Beds National Monument.

Bats winging through the twilight, ice formations glistening in the permanent chill, colorful bacteria shimmering across ceilings—such are the subterranean splendors of Lava Beds National Monument in northeastern California. From spacious caverns threaded with walking paths to cramped tunnels requiring serious spelunking skills, the park's 700-plus caves were created when ancient lava cooled, forming a hard outer crust while the still-liquid interior continued to flow. The resulting honeycomb of lava tubes can take days to explore fully, but visitors should leave time to enjoy the high-desert landscape and historic battle sites where American Indians of the Modoc tribe, hidden in caves, held off the U.S. Army in 1872 and 1873.

This article was first published in Spring 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.