Subway Cave: Old Lava Tube in Lassen National Forrest

This subway cave, outside of Lassen National Park, is one of the largest, easily accessible lava caves in the world. It is a five minute walk from the parking lot to the entrance and don’t worry, even if you are claustrophobic like me, you should do OK in this cave as it is wide open and never feels to tight. Here is all the information.

Subway Cave 13


  • 1/3 of a mile long
  • Pitch black so you must have a light
  • Cave usually hovers at 46 degrees so bring a jacket
  • Only open from May to October
  • Here is a map of the cave

Subway Cave 2

If you check out the map below, you can see this cave is long enough to utilize a map, so it is easy to explore without getting lost.

Subway Cave 3

It is 1/3rd of a mile long, which gives you a great taste of what a lava tube can be like but is still over pretty fast. Here are some of the highlights. I know pictures of a cave inside are not super exciting, but hopefully, this post pushes you to explore it yourself!

Subway Cave 17

Devil’s Kitchen

After a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, which has bathrooms, you arrive at the opening to the cave, which is named Devils Kitchen. From the kitchen, you make your descent into the cave.

Subway Cave 11

The cave is extensive at the openings; I would say about 20-30 feet across. Make a note of the ground as you head in and start to lose light; it is very jagged and should not be taken lightly.

Subway Cave 6

The first thing from the map you will run into is lucifer’s cul-de-sac.

Lucifer’s Cul-de-sac

Subway Cave 18

This area starts as a split in the cave, and as soon as we got to this split, we all wondered what way we should go. It turned out that we only needed to go to the right, but we went left as well as we wanted to leave nothing unexplored and saw “lucifer’s cul-de-sac.” It’s just a big room with about 6-foot ceilings as you enter and 15-foot ceilings when you get in.

Subway Cave 14

From there, you proceed forward and are already halfway done with the cave. Just in case you are wondering where you are in the cave, there are many maps placed inside that you can see as well.

Subway Cave 8

I noticed an unusually low area and shined my headlamp to take a picture of how the ceiling looks.

Subway Cave 16

We explored everything we could before finally seeing a small bit of light from the exit.

Subway Cave 7

As we proceeded forward towards that exit, we were greeted with lots of strange rock formation on the ground, such as this.

Subway Cave 10

It also appears that some sort of cave in helped to create the exit.

Subway Cave 12

After getting back into the light, we all were surprised it was over so fast and wished there was more to explore.

Subway Cave 4

That being said, this is a fantastic cave that has been protected very well and provides an excellent adventure. It is one of my favorite hikes I have been on this year (2015) just because it is so unique. Let me know what you think in the comments below.


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