Apparently, natural beauty has it’s price. No one knows that better than Oregon spelunkers. In the last couple decades, the myriad of caves left behind by ancient lava flows have been gated and restricted. You can still explore them if you are willing to pay.
“I remember when I could hang out and party in Skeleton Cave with my buddies on a hot day,” remembers my dad who grew up in Bend, OR. Yeah, that’s probably why entry is restricted today. Thanks for that legacy Dad!
Still, there are a few FREE easily accessible caves that you can check out and are even family friendly for the first few hundred yards.
These Bend caves formed when Newberry Volcano was active thousands of years ago. After the lava flows cooled, the ground beneath was still molten and continued to flow. Once the lava drained, the ground was left riddled with long, tube shaped caverns. Many of the caves are home to little more than hibernating bats or ice that was once harvested for Bend’s iceboxes.
Boyd Cave is still open and free. Bring a flashlight/headlamp per person and even a latern. You’ll begin your hike on a path which very soon becomes rippled rock and even boulders. The ceiling is high for almost a quarter mile until you reach a rockfall. You can either turn around or scramble over the obstruction to complete the final 100 feet.
Fun with or without kids, caving is the perfect way to escape the heat on a hot desert day. Bring a jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Super Power Hoody if you plan on spending much time subterranean. It can get chilly!
To get to Boyd Cave, follow Hwy 97 east to the outskirts of Bend. Due to a barrier, you have to go past China Hat Rd to the Baker Rd exit and double back to China Hat Rd on the right. Follow China Hat Rd for 9 miles, turning left just before the “Pavement Ends” sign. You’ll see a smile sign for Boyd Cave and a looped parking lot. The entrance to the cave is a simple hole in the ground with a metal staircase leading into the earth 50 feet from the lot.