My son’s boy scout troop and I camped out near Lava River Cave last weekend. We were about 15 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona, in the Coconino National Forest. Most of the locals refer to the cave simply as “the lava tubes.”
Our campsite was on the south side of FR 812, a quarter mile east of FR 171, at the base of Antelope Hill. The Forest Service allows dispersed, primitive camping just off the dirt roads in the area. The roads could be a problem for passenger cars if it rains much. We were fortunate to have perfect weather: clear skies, high of about 80°F and low of 32°. I think the wide gap between high and low reflects the altitude of 8,000 ft above sea level.
After setting up camp, we hiked to the top of Antelope Hill, about 1.5 miles round trip. It’s a moderately strenuous walk since we went straight up rather than doing switchbacks. You blaze your own trail. The scouts caught and released a 3.5-inch long horned lizard at the top. I hear they’re fairly common up here.
After some campfire skits by the scouts we hit the hay, listening to bugling elk and howling coyotes during the night. The cattle were even louder, but the noises didn’t interfere with sleep. Some of us were caught off guard by the low temp during the night.
After breaking camp the next morning, we drove the 1.5 miles to Lava River Cave and dove right in, so to speak. Round-trip mileage for the cave is 1.5-2 miles. I and many of the others in our group had never seen anything like it.
It was an enjoyable trip and I can see why troop 131 makes it every two or three years.
Other adults in attendance were Scott H, Ryan W, Mark Z, Kathy S, Paul G, and Jeff L. The scouts were Paul P, Matthew Z, JD H, Nathan H, Cole W, Christian R, Trevor L, Jacob F, and Riley G. Let me know if I left anyone out.