Cave Guides
Ultimate Guide to Subway Cave, California (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

Ultimate Guide to Subway Cave, California (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

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Subway Cave came into existence nearly twenty thousand years ago during volcanic events. It offers an exciting and unusual hiking experience, and the best part is that it affords an easy cave experience even for the kids. Just put on your headlamps and begin exploring this hidden gem of California!

Ultimate Guide to Subway Cave, California (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

Subway Cave was created when large amounts of lava were flowing across the area around the present-day location of Hat Creek. The lava got exposed to air, cooled, and formed a hard cap. At the same time, molten lava continued to flow underneath. Eventually, the hollow tubes remained, but the molten lava drained away. 

History of Subway Cave


The cave is on the Northern border of Lassen National Park in the Lassen National Forest and is a key remnant of the volcanic past of Northern California. This part of the state is a portion of the Cascade Range of mountains. They were ancient volcanoes that gave shape to the geology of the region thousands of years ago and it continues even today.

Mt Lassen itself is the remnant of a much larger volcano, Mount Tehama, which is known to be the site of the largest volcanic eruption in North America.

This cave is in a safe location where one can view and explore the effects of volcanism. The Subway Cave, in reality, is not a cave but a lava tube that was created during the volcanic past. 

Subway Cave Map

Subway cave map

Geological Cave Formations in the Cave

This is not that type of cave where you find lots of stalactites, stalagmites, or other dramatic rock formations, but it does have a few surprises.

There are maps and signs throughout the tube that points out the unique features. The most striking feature is the two mini volcanoes that appear on the floor midway through the tunnel and look like melted mud pies!

There are different textures and shades of brown and grey on the walls and ceilings of the cave. 

Wildlife in Subway Cave

Subway Cave is home to several insects, spiders, and other small animals that usually inhabit the caves in this region.  

Download our FREE Subway Cave Guide (Unofficial) 

How Big is Subway Cave?

The total length of the Subway Cave lava tube is 1300 ft.  

Subway Cave Tours

The Subway Cave is one of the largest lava caves in the world. The cave is wide open, and one would not feel claustrophobic inside it. The cave is easy to explore, and there is no chance of getting lost.

It is 1/3rd mile long and gives you a taste of what lava caves look and feel like.

The cave’s opening is known as Devil’s Kitchen, and from here, you can make your descent to the cave. The cave is large at the openings, almost 30 ft across. Take special care when you walk in as the ground is jagged, and you need to have a watchful eye. (Common with most lava tubes).

The 1st thing that you will run into is Lucifer’s Cul-de-Sac. It is a massive room with ceilings as high as 6 ft at the entrance, and when you get in, you will come across 15 ft ceilings.

You can proceed from here, and as you do, you will find maps placed at strategic locations inside the cave. There are loads of strange rock formations at the cave’s exit, and it would appear that some cave-in helped to create this exit.

You should be able to get in and out of here in about 30 minutes.  

The entrance to Subway Cave

Is Subway Cave Haunted?

While this is basically a lava tube, it is a little different than something from ancient Native Americans or European settlers. The cave is not known to be haunted and is one of the most famous caves in the state.

Subway Cave Tour Prices and Discounts

There is no fee charged for entry into the cave, and there are no caves either. Visitors are encouraged to tour the cave on their own.  

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Is Subway Cave Cold?

The temperature of the cave remains at a cool 46 degrees F throughout the year. Visitors should carry a light sweater or jacket at the time of visiting the cave. 

What to Wear?

The floor of the cave is jagged; so, visitors must wear sturdy shoes. If possible, bring a light jacket to keep off the chill as the temperature inside the cave is cooler. It is also dark – remember to pack your headlamp!

Cave gear

Keep in mind that pets are not allowed inside the cave.  

Subway Cave Hours

The operational hours of the cave are from dawn to dusk.  

What to Do at Subway Cave (Beside Tours)

Apart from exploring the cave, there are lots of recreational opportunities in the area. The hike inside the cave is less than a half-mile (one-way), but it is not for those who are not fit for strenuous hikes.

Around the cave, there are picnic tables and clean restrooms, which offer a great picnicking location for everybody.

This particular area in the Lassen National Forest offer loads of recreational opportunities like campgrounds and world-class fishing facilities. 

Best Time to Visit Subway Cave 

The caves remain open to the public from April to October, and the best season to visit the caves is in summer. 

How to Get to Subway Cave

The Subway Cave is north of Lassen Park, off Highway 89. It is a quarter-mile north of the junction of State Route 44, and there are signs put up by the Forest Service on both sides of Highway 89. The trail is apparent from the parking area and is around 1/3rd mile long. The trail heads through a part of the National Forest before descending into the Subway Cave through a series of stairs. 

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Learn about White Nose Disease and what you can do to help!

Hotels near the Cave

There are many decent hotels near the Subway Cave, such as:

Hat Creek Resort and RV Park.   

This is a tad on the rustic side and not the place if you want fantastic WiFi.

McCloud Hotel

Antique charm with modern comforts – knowns for great Covid protocols too!

Visiting the Cave

Do you need more information before visiting Subway Caves? Call (530) 336 – 2151 for an information packet. 

Other caves you may find interesting:

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