Captain Jack's Stronghold, Lava Beds National Monument

Walk in the footsteps of Captain Jack and his tribal members at Lava Beds National Monument in the Northern Sierra Cascade. The Captain Jack's Stronghold Trail offers two short, self-guided interpretive trails that wind through the heart of the Modoc’s wartime defenses.

During the Modoc War of 1872-1873, a small band of Modoc Indians used an intimate knowledge of their homeland's terrain to their tactical advantage. Under the leadership of Kintpuash (Captain Jack), the Modoc took refuge in "Captain Jacks Stronghold," a natural lava fortress. From here the Modoc held off U.S. Army forces numbering up to ten times their strength, for five months. At sites throughout the monument, you can contemplate this clash of cultures.

I have walked the trail around the Stronghold, and it is a very spiritual place.  It's quiet, and you can hear the wind in the grass and birds chirping. As you look around at the view, you realize that over 138 years ago, a Modoc tribal member could have been standing here, trying to defend his homeland and keep his way of life.  Unfortunately, we know how that ended, and the Klamath-Modoc-Yahooskin Tribes are still trying to gain back what they lost so many years ago.

A map of the Lava Beds National Monument is located in the sidebar, and shows how to reach Captain Jack's Stronghold trail.

Lava Beds National Monument

As one of the longest continually occupied areas in North America, the history and cultural legacy of the lava beds stretches back thousands of years. Visitors are invited to explore the history early Native Americans left behind in rock art and at archeological sites, the conflict of the Modoc War, and the traditions and heritage of homesteaders, ranchers, cave explorers, "CCC boys," and the modern Modoc and Klamath tribes.

Lava Beds National Monument is always open for visitors to experience this geological wonderland overflowing with Modoc history. The caves, trails, camping, and attractions are open year-round. Cave Loop Drive is closed to vehicles after dark, but you may still enter on foot or bicycle. Occasionally in winter, snow can temporarily close Park roads until they are plowed.

Most years, the Visitor Center is open every day except December 25th.

Park Hours:

  • Summer: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
    (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
  • Fall, Winter, Spring: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Latitude: 41.8251243 Longitude: -121.5004206 Elevation: 4039 ft


Trail Distance

1.5 mile loop with rough terrain on volcanic rock. Inner loop is 0.5 miles (0.8 km); Outer loop 1.5 miles (2.4 km).

ADA Accessibility Notes

The trail kiosk area is paved and allows visitors a special viewing place to imagine the historic events that occurred in the surrounding lava beds.  However, the two short trails are on volcanic rock surface and not intended for wheel chair access.

Pet Friendly Notes

The rocky terrain, thorny plants, snakes, and high temperatures at Lava Beds can harm your pet.  Predators, including mountain lions, are curious about dogs and may approach your party when they otherwise may have passed you by.  Pets also leave irreversible damage on the Park resources and wildlife. If you do decide to bring your dog, please observe the following:

• Pets must be kept on a six foot leash or in a vehicle or crate at all times.  Leaving your pet in a closed vehicle in summer can be deadly!

• You may bring your pet along in developed areas, but not on trails, in caves, or into buildings.

• Pet waste must be immediately collected and disposed of in a trash can.

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