Subway Cave, Lassen National Forest

Subway Cave is a lava tube that was formed during volcanic events just twenty thousand years ago, but today it offers an unusual hiking experience in an area of very interesting and recent geologic activity.  The trailhead is located less than half a mile from the junction of Highway 89 and Highway 44 in Old Station.

Subway Cave was created when large amounts of lava were flowing across all the area around the present-day location of Hat Creek.  The lava on top, exposed to the air, cooled and formed a hard cap while molten lava continued to flow beneath.  Eventually, the molten lava drained away but the hollow tubes remained.  This hike lets you follow in the footsteps of these relatively recent lava flows.

The parking area features picnic tables and toilets and the entrance to the cave is a short walk away and well marked.

A flight of stairs descends into a gaping hole in the ground and meets a fairly level floor of the cave that runs its entire length.  The floor is rough in many places, so sturdy shoes are recommended.  The walls and ceiling of the cave are smooth and lead into the complete darkness that greets hikers on this walk.

Be sure to bring a flashlight if you want to walk the less than half a mile length of the cave.  The temperature inside the cave remains a constant 46 degrees year round, so you might want  a light jacket even in the middle of the summer.  Interpretive signage can be found at the trailhead in some locations inside the cave, which help explain the unusual site.

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 40.7091414 Longitude: -121.4179802 Elevation: 4165 ft
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Recreational Opportunities

The hike inside the Subway Cave is less than a half mile one way, so it is not a place for those seeking a strenuous hike.  There are nice picnic tables and clean restrooms offering a shady stop and great picnic location for travelers in this part of mountainous Shasta County. 

This area of the Lassen National Forest offers lots of other recreational opportunities, and campgrounds, world class fishing, and other hiking trails can be found in the immediate vicinity.

Seasons Accessible

The area is usually open late April to November, but may close in winter weather conditions.

Fees

Free

ADA Accessibility Notes

The entrance to the cave requires a climb down a metal flight of stairs.

Pet Friendly Notes

No pets inside the cave.

Comments

Subway Cave is an interesting place. I definitely recommend visiting if you are in the area. The Hat Creek Basalt was erupted from a chain of spatter cones in Hat Creek Valley 24,000 years ago. Lassen National Forest has established a trail that winds through the spatter cone chain with an informative trail guide pamphlet and interpretive trail side signs to guide you. I also recommend this!

Forrest Hopson, 8/22/2011

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