Central Oregon’s Lava River Cave Has Reopened to Visitors

The underground tube was off-limits in 2020 and then closed early last year due to construction.

For the first time since 2019, Bend’s popular Lava River Cave should be able to welcome explorers for its entire operating season following years cut short or canceled altogether due to COVID and construction.

The roughly 1-mile underground tube in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument opened May 6 along with the Lava Lands Visitor Center, which houses state-of-the-art exhibits on area geologic and cultural history.

While many of the trails surrounding the interpretive hub remained fully accessible, the cave was completely off-limits to visitors two years ago given concerns about cramming people into tight places during the pandemic. And while the attraction did reopen last year, it closed Aug. 23—several weeks before the season would normally come to an end—to allow crews to improve overall public safety around the cave. Funds for that work came from the Great American Outdoors Act, which was enacted to help reduce the backlog of maintenance on recreational infrastructure.

Lava River Cave—the longest in the state—is one of the first lava tubes to be discovered in Oregon. It takes the average visitor about 90 minutes to complete the out-and-back route in temperatures that typically hover around 42 degrees.

If you plan on visiting this year, the U.S. Forest Service asks that you do not wear any clothing or shoes that have been in other caves or mines to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome to the cave’s resident bats. The fungal disease spreads quickly and has a high death rate. Also, dress warmly and bring or rent two light sources in case one of them goes out—unless your idea of fun is wandering around a pitch-black bat cave filled with tripping hazards.