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Old Station, California, United States

Subway Cave, Lassen National Forest

Descend into the dark volcanic underworld of the Subway Cave lava tube for a short yet highly memorable hike.

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.4 miles / 0.6 km
Duration: 1 hour or less
Family Friendly
 
Overview: Twenty thousand years ago and just 15 miles north of Lassen Volcanic National Park, the ground broke apart and huge volumes of volcanic rock poured forth to create the enormous expanse that is the Hat Creek Lava Flow.

Exposed to the air, the top of the lava flow began to cool and solidify, while molten rock below continued to flow - insulated by the now solid roof and creating lava tubes which carried the red-hot rock miles from its source.

Subway Cave is a section of lava tube less than a third of a mile long, located between two areas of ceiling cave-ins. Substantial concrete steps have been constructed at both ends of the cave, providing easy access for all would-be spelunkers.


Tips: • Flashlights are a necessity in the cave. Forgetful folk may be able to rent them from the information center at Old Station, just south of the Subway Cave park.
• Take a jacket with you if you feel the cool conditions in the cave may be uncomfortable.
• Open from May to October due to winter weather restrictions.
• A very short return hike is also available which double-backs across the top of the tube to the entrance near the parking lot.

Points of Interest

Parking
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Trailhead

The parking lot and trailhead is located at the end of a well-signed road just north of Old Station, CA on state route 89. Here you’ll find plenty of parking, a restroom and several interpretive signs.

Grab your flashlights and your jackets (it does get cool down there) and head along the trail and then up a set of steps before reaching the entrance.
Junction
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Devil's Doorway

Someone got a little carried away when it came to naming some of the cave’s features, but we’ll forgive them for trying to make geology more exciting. Although it’s not like Subway Cave isn’t dramatic enough already.

Descend the wide concrete steps at Devil’s Doorway and enter the mouth of the lava tube. There’s no point waiting for your eyes to adjust to the darkness here, since once you’re deep in the cave there’s nothing around you except pitch blackness. Simply switch on your flashlights and start exploring.

Tripping hazards are few in this lava tube, but keep your eyes peeled for occasional obstacles nevertheless, in addition to watching out for low ceilings.

Be sure to spend some time appreciating the small interpretive signs dotted around the cave, which provide some great insights into the features of this geological oddity.
Junction
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Rattlesnake Collapse

Daylight returns at the end of the Subway Cave tour and return to the surface up the concrete steps.

There are two routes back to the parking lot from here - a sharp right turn will take you back on the quickest route, or you can follow our guide on a slightly longer, quieter more pleasant journey through scrub and partial forest.
Junction
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PCT Junction

At the PCT junction bear right.
Junction
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Road Junction

Upon reaching the road take another right turn, following the pavement back to the parking lot and the trailhead.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Trailspotting

Trailspotting content © Stuart Green 2010 including text, images, videos and route detail.

Subway Cave, Lassen National Forest Trail Map


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