Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 12, 2014

Journey To The Center of the Earth


by Chris Greene

Was it a journey to the center of the earth? While Jules Verne might not think so, the Sedona Westerners who penetrated the Flagstaff Lava River Cave described it so. The mile long lava cave was created 700,000 years ago from ancient volcanic activity in today's San Francisco Peaks area.
A mile in and a mile out didn't sound like much of a hike but definitely an adventure! It started with a rock scramble for the 100 foot decent into the cave. A rainy day made it slippery so we moved with caution down into the dark abyss. Beyond the cave’s entrance, we were dry for the duration of the hike. But, it was a consistent 50 degree temperature which kept us moving.

Everyone had headlamps and some had an additional flash light but the low lights played havoc with our depth perception. Each step was taken with great care. Hiking poles were helpful for balance. Although the cave is wide, helmets are advised for head protection in the low areas. About 3/4 of the way into the cave one had to resort to crawling or crouching to get through a very low area for about 12 feet. Once through this tight spot we could stand upright again and complete the hike.

At the cave's end we turned off all our lights to see how dark the cave really was. Some people said they could still see their hand in front of their face...really? Then we tried to be just as quiet as it was dark. That didn't last very long but it was an awesome feeling you can't get anywhere else.

Satisfied with our cave adventure, it inevitably was time to head back up topside. So we reversed our direction and did it all again. A gentle rain at the mouth of the cave ushered us back to our cars.

My Ambler Co-leader, Reba Stone, mentioned to me, “a lava tube up in Flagstaff”, that she had heard of. Curiosity got the best of me so I went to the internet, first, and there was all the information on the lava cave right on the National Forest Service site. The entrance to the Lava River Cave is 14 miles north of Flagstaff on Forest Service Road 245, at mile post 230, west off of Hwy 180. There are directional signs on the dirt road so it is easy to find the parking lot which is a good size because it is a popular place. There are a couple of interpretive signs with a map (although, you can't really get lost in there, it's a straight in and out.)

The first hike of the season should be something new, different and exciting. Mission Accomplished!

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.