California – the Volcano Country
Subway cave lava tube is located in Lassen National forest, NorCal. Northern California – the land of Volcanoes looks absolutely nothing like the rest of the state. While driving on Hwy 5 toward Redding the scenery of the Yolo, Colusa, Glen and Tehama counties will changed from planes to rolling hills. As soon as you pass Redding you’ll feel like you’ve entered a totally different land – a land of volcanoes! Lava tube was probably the highlight of our trip up north and probably the most entertaining spot for our little son.
Things to consider before descending into the dark Lava tube:
- Warm clothes (it might be hot outside, and frigid cold down below in the cave)
- Only open from May to October – most important constrain!
Welcome to the land of volcanos! No one really thinks of California being a volcano country, but it totally is! Besides having an active earthquake activity the state is susceptible to a potential major eruption with 8 active sites. United States Geological Survey agency (USGS) actively monitors these locations and created a watch list of some of the most potent. 3 of the Volcanos are at this point are supercharged and ready to blow any minute! Although this information doesn’t really stop anyone from exploring the national volcanic parks.
8 active volcanoes in California
Extending from North to South include:
- Medicine Lake volcano
- Shasta volcano
- Lassen Volcano
- Clear Lake volcano
- Long Valley caldera
- Ubehebe craters volcano
- Coso volcanic field
- Salton Buttes
Planning a trip to Subway cave lava tubes
To tell you the truth we were quite reluctant to explore Mt Shasta & Lassen national parks, due to the warnings from USGS, but given the fact that there are several major cities surrounding the volcanoes and no recent reports of immediate danger, we decided to take our chances and hike around some of the most unusual places in all of California.
Apparently Subway cave lava tube is the largest and most easily accessible lava tube in the country, not just California! The whole underground distance is approximately a quarter of a miles. It is pitch black dark down below, and a flash light is an absolute must! No worries if you forgot your flash light though, with modern technology you always have one on your phone! It should be powerful enough to get you through the subway cave lava tube tunnel.
Going spelunking is intriguing and of course it was exhilarating to descend down the steps into the wide open mouth of the Subway lava tube in Lassen National forest. We though that our little guy would be scarred and actually wouldn’t want to enter the darkness, however he was pretty energetic and almost left us behind. Probably the fact that there were several more people walking down with us helped.
The floors are exceptionally uneven and that significantly impeded our progress through the cave. Even though the cave is very wide people tend to follow the walked pathways to avoid hurting their feet on the sharp lava remnants. There were some areas in the cave where I carried our son, just so that he wouldn’t hurt himself by stumbling on the uneven terrain.
Spelunking Subway cave lava tubes with kids
Make yourself familiar with map prior entering the cave. The lava tube has a pretty straight forward layout, however, just having a mental image of the map would give you a peace of mind while you’re walking in complete darkness. Do attempt to turn off the lights completely once you are midway through the cave – that’s a pretty eerie experience.
Lucifer’s Cul-de-sac was probably our favorite part of the cave since the ceiling clearance significantly decreases at this point, it really feels like that there might be a secret door hidden in the wall, leading to Lucifer’s chamber.
We’ve all heard the stories about the miners who were trapped under ground for a long time waiting to see that beacon of hope – day light. The glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel felt like a gulp of fresh air.
I know, reading all this from the comfort of your chair, couch (or where you are reading this) seems overdramatic. However once you’re in that cave and allow your imagination run amok you’ll have a better idea. spelunking lava tubes in Lassen national forest can really be an exciting experience, especially for kids.
Things to keep in mind while caving in Lassen national forest
It is incredibly cold in the cave. We dressed up our little guy in a sweater and a jacket. It was cold enough to “see your breath” down there. Thus we recommend that you bring extra layers of clothes on the most warmest of the days. Don’t forget to wear a sweater yourself.
Bring your DSLR for some long exposure shots. It is always fun to play around with camera and let your creative side out. Drawing with a flashlight in the dark in the middle of the subway cave formation could be a fun family activity that costs nothing but is really entertaining.
You can really see how uneven the floors in the cave are; btw this is more of a “flat” part of the cave. While exploring the subway cave in Lassen we saw many other families enjoying their time in this amazing part of California. Well that’s our California perspective for today.