Looking for the best caves in Oregon? You’re in the right place.
Oregon is chock full of interesting caves due in part to its dynamic geologic history, there’s a plethora of interesting underground cave systems to explore.
Since caves are often overlooked as scary or claustrophobia-inducing places to visit, I’ve compiled a list of family-friendly caves in Oregon that are relatively simple to walk right into. Which means there’s no need to crawl through cramped spooky spaces for the caves mentioned on this list..
So bring a flashlight, good shoes, and a sense of adventure as you dive into the extraordinary world of Oregon’s 15 beginner-friendly caves.
Best Caves Oregon
For adventurers looking for a few minutes in the spotlight, head over to one of the best caves in Oregon, aptly named, too! Skylight Cave is named after the three bright light beams that stream into this otherwise unassuming cave in Central Oregon.
When the sun is at a certain point in the sky sunlight shoots through a few small “skylights” in the roof of the cave illuminating the blackened cavern. Definitely one of the coolest caves in Oregon and a great example of the joys of lava tubes.
This Oregon cave is found off the beaten track and involves climbing a short way down a tree branch or makeshift ladder to get inside the cave, but it is still relatively easy to access for those who don’t mind getting their boots a little dirty.
The cave is beautiful to visit any time of year but to see the stunning light beams you’ll want to head out on a sunny morning and plan to wait around a bit for the sun to hit the angle that allows the light to stream through the skylights of their namesake cave.
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The Devil’s Punchbowl
The Devil’s Punchbowl, a popular destination on the Oregon coast, probably needs no introduction. For generations, onlookers have been mesmerized by this breathtaking natural wonder, tempted to explore the collapsed roof of a natural sea cave.
The best part? You can enjoy his popular Oregon cave from the parking lot. But if you’re an insatiable adventure nut, you may consider accessing the cave from the beach below during low tides.
Walk through the neighborhood until you find beach access, then be ready to slide down a sandy embankment (bottom first, if needed–no judgment!) then head south along the beach a short distance to reach one of the most popular caves in Oregon.
Get an insider’s look at the colorful red, yellow, green, and purple hues that the cave’s rocks glisten with. Gaze at the ocean from the perspective of a sea cave, and pat yourself on the back for taking time to see a famous natural feature from a whole new perspective.
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Sea Lion Caves
Just 11 miles north of Central Oregon’s quaint town of Florence lies the largest sea cave in America. This Guinness World Record-holding and easily accessible Oregon cave is right off of Highway 101.
Take a few stairs and a short elevator ride down to sea level, where the doors of the lift open to reveal a sheltered room full of signboards with interesting information about the natural and cultural history of this unique cave.
Steller sea lions gather in the cave by the hundreds and their dog-like barks echo through the cavern creating a quirky soundtrack for an epic experience.
Winter is the best time to visit since the sea lions will likely choose to shelter inside the cave rather than be hanging outside on sun-warmed cliff ledges where they raise their young during spring.
The sea lions are protected but free to come and go as they please and are a delight to spend time with while you take in the wonder of one of the best sea caves in Oregon.
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Okay, so this one is a little bit of a cheat for two reasons: 1. It’s more of a tunnel than a cave, and 2. It’s man made. But hey, that doesn’t stop this from being one of the best caves in Oregon, so don’t let that stop you from visiting.
Visitors can venture into a bit of an eerie (but completely safe!) quirky little sidestop on the central Oregon coast.
At Maxwell Point there is a literal tunnel dug into the rock on the shoreline that is relatively easy for most to navigate, provided you watch your step along the rocky ground and bring a light. This short trek will spit you out on a small beach locally known as Star Trek beach for reasons unknown.
Perhaps the name was coined because braving this little “cave” feels like being transported through the dark universe before suddenly arriving back out, blinded by sunlight, on a whole new stretch of shoreline.
Certainly a fun little quest to round out your day at the beach, and a nice beginner experience to get your toes wet for bigger and badder future cave explorations. This is one of the best Oregon caves to explore with kids because it feels like a real adventure while being perfectly safe.
Bonus: Head north along the same beach to find a much larger sea cave that isn’t very deep but is usually accessible to beach-goers as long as the tide isn’t too high.
Oregon Caves National Monument
Located in the coastal Siskiyou mountain range that spans the Oregon-California border, the Oregon Caves offers visitors a guided way to experience the wild world of caves for the first time.
This National Monument protects about 15,000 feet of twisting marble rock tunnels and is the only marble cave that is easily accessible in Oregon (and one of only three marble caves out of 3,900 that are overseen by the National Park Service).
The Oregon Caves tours are open from March through November, and warm clothing is recommended as, like most caves on this list, the temperature tops out around a chilly 41 degrees F.
After emerging from these incredibly unique caves in Oregon, consider hiking the many trails that run through the above-ground part of the monument, including Big Tree which leads you to Oregon’s widest Douglas Fir tree. Opportunities for wildlife viewing abound, as the region is well known for its rich variety of plants and animals.
Fort Rock Cave
No list of the best caves in Oregon is complete without Fort Rock Cave. A drive out to south central Oregon will lead you to the wide open desert where big skies and a flat stretch of arid terrain dotted with sweet-smelling sagebrush awaits.
Fort Rock rises from this desolate landscape as the only major rock feature for dozens of miles and is the perfect place to stop to soak in some sunshine.
Fort Rock lies in what used to be the bed of a once-massive sea and is actually what’s left of an ancient volcano. Within this rock formation is a cave, fittingly dubbed Fort Rock Cave, which visitors can explore on a guided tour only.
This Oregon cave is historically significant, for it was originally the site of the discovery of the earliest human remains before scientists found the evidence at Paisley Caves mentioned a little further up this list.
Sagebrush sandals fashioned by early humans were nestled inside of this cave and dated back between 9,000 and 13,000 years!
Arnold Ice Cave
The Arnold Ice Cave located near Bend, Oregon is actually a massive 10,000 year old system of underground tunnels that were formed by lava flows. I know what you’re thinking: why call it an ice cave if it was formed by burning hot lava? Ice caves are so named because of their tendency to accumulate ice (go figure).
Since little to no sunlight reaches the innermost tunnels and chambers of these cave systems, groundwater that seeps through cracks in the rock solidifies into ice.
Arnold Ice Cave is a great way to experience this natural formation over a short distance: the 0.9 mile trail at Hidden Forest near Bend, Oregon will give you a taste of this 5 mile long cave system.
Make sure to bring shoes with good traction, as the ice that coats the cave floors can be extremely slippery. This is one of the best caves in Oregon to explore for first-timers, so invite some friends!
Within the same underground network as Arnold Cave is another beginner-friendly cavern that gives another look at the wild, winding features of a high desert lava tube.
Traveling along China Hat Road leads resourceful visitors who don’t mind doing a little searching for sometimes elusive signage to a handful of the cave entrances, though only a few of these are accessible (many have been blocked off by iron bars to prevent degradation and protect native bat species).
Boyd Cave is a short 0.7 mile trek that takes you through another well-preserved lava tube formation. There is plenty of hiking to do around the entrance to this cave, and on the trails you can easily catch sight of the majestic peaks of the Three Sisters beyond the sparse sagebrush-dotted landscape.
As if you needed another reason to spend some time bopping around central Oregon’s high desert region, the city of Redmond is a paradise for hikers, nature nuts, rock-lovers, and cave explorers alike.
The Redmond Caves Recreation Site is open year-round to visitors looking to take a break from the desert heat and explore 5 different cool caverns tucked underground on a small piece of public land.
Once a fully enclosed lava tube, parts of it have collapsed leaving opening for folks to descend. No fees are required but this site is not fully developed (meaning no tours or even restrooms), so be prepared for adventure and come prepared with a flashlight, good clothing/footwear, and always let someone know where you’ll be.
Horse Lava Tube Cave System
Another cluster of lava tubes comprise the Horse Lava Tube Cave System located near Bend, Oregon. This group of underground caverns in Oregon (which is actually connected to the Redmond Caves, listed above) is seriously gigantic.
No, seriously. It covers most of the area between Bend and Redmond with a known 122 caves throughout.
These caves, first discovered around 1900, have since been the object of conflicting desires as private landowner, developers, and conservationists have battled over what to do with the land in this region.
Many of the caves have been destroyed, vandalized, and paved over or lie on private property, making them inaccessible by the public.
Fortunately, a few remain for the wayward wanderer to admire, including the Horse Caves, Stevens Caves, Lewis Farm Cave 1, and Young’s Cave.
While the Redmond Caves are likely your best bet for easy access, it’s still worth noting the expansive history of the other Oregon caves in this area.
Lava River Cave
Lava River Cave is another excellent option to round out this list of the best caves in Central Oregon. Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point in the list (and judging by its name), Lava River cave is another system of lava tubes formed as a result of volcanic activity.
Part of the Newberry National Monument, this cave is just one of many other phenomenal rock formations dotted throughout the Deschutes National Forest. This is the longest known lava tube in Oregon and was actually one of the first to be discovered.
Now Lava River Cave is very popular thanks in part to its historic importance and accessibility. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the mile-long tunnel (2 miles roundtrip).
Lava River Cave is definitely a stop to add to your list, but be aware that reservations are required and this popular Oregon cave is only accessible from May through September.
Ocean-faring pioneers dubbed this small expanse of central Oregon’s coast Hug Point because they virtually had to “hug” the shore to avoid wrecking on the dangerous rocks beneath the water’s surface (through I like to think they were all good pals who knew the value of a good hug sesh every now and then).
Hug Point is an easy-to-miss beach access point just 5 miles south of Cannon Beach, and is only accessible during low tides. Check the tide charts and head out with plenty of time to explore the two small sea caves and waterfall on the point (best viewed during the rainy season).
While these Oregon caves aren’t exactly as monumental as some of the others on this list, they are worth checking out while you’re in the area simply to witness another fine example of naturally formed sea caves.
Another draw to Hug Point is its cultural history: this beach was a common route for pioneers traveling on stagecoach and wheel tracks in the rocks can be seen along the beach.
When it comes to the best caves in Oregon, you can’t afford to miss Derrick Cave.
For those of us who are still hesitant to explore the often cramped twists and turns of caves, the spacious Derrick Cave provides a chance to experience caves without feeling so confined.
At 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide, this roomy cave stretches a quarter of a mile and is easy to stroll right through–provided you can reach it. The cave, located in southeastern Oregon, is accessible by an unpaved dirt road that is best traversed by most vehicles during the summer (otherwise use a 4-wheel drive with high clearance).
This truly is a chance to do some serious exploring on your own, as the cave is in a pretty remote part of what is known as the Devil’s Garden (and is actually the main opening for the lava flows that spread just thousands of years ago (pretty fresh in geologic time!).
Fun fact: Derrick Cave was once a designated nuclear fallout shelter filled with food and supplies.
The Paisley Caves in Oregon are a system of eight caves located in south-central reach of the state. By many standards, these are perhaps the most culturally significant caves in Oregon.
Evidence of human activity was discovered here, dating all the way back about 14,000 years when humans crossed into the North American continent.
Imagine walking along the same footsteps of these ancient people as you traverse this short path back in time, poking around within each cave and checking out the wildlife who now call these small caverns home.
While these caves are very easily accessible, they are in a fairly remote region of the state and are entirely undeveloped, so come prepared with your hiking essentials.
Look around to take in the landscape, a rough desert-type area that was once a vast inland sea where the ancient humans who lived here could sustainably live along its shore. Keep an eye out for lizards, packratas, foxes, coyotes, and plenty of bird life as you wander through this historically important region.
Cave of the Winds
Let’s wrap this list of the best caves in Oregon with a personal favorite, Cave of the Winds.
Way down south in Bandon, Oregon is a chance to take in the beauty and wonder of the southern coastline–and see a neat cave while you’re at it!
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint (say that five times fast) has rich cultural and ecologic histories that date back thousands of years when humans first started settling on the Oregon Coast.
Right near this viewpoint’s cliff is the Cave of the Winds where you can wander inside, sheltered from the salty wind as you gaze out toward the jagged sea stacks that rise from the waves just off the shoreline.
These iconic sea stacks, clustered in unique arrangements and whittled into slender points by the elements, have captivated people throughout history.
Maps show these rocks bestowed with mysterious names like “Cat and Kittens Rocks” and “Face Rock”, most of which have intriguing Native American lore associated with them.
List of the best Caves in Oregon (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a list of the best caves in Oregon. Hope you enjoyed!
- Skylight Cave
- The Devil’s Punchbowl
- Sea Lions Caves
- Oceanside Cave
- Oregon Caves National Monument
- Fort Rock Cave
- Arnold Ice Cave
- Boyd Cave
- Redmond Caves
- Horse Lava Tube Cave System
- Lava River Cave
- Hug Point
- Derrick Cave
- Paisley Caves
- Cave of the Winds
Map of the best Oregon caves
When many of us consider places to travel, destinations like beaches, forests, and deserts tend to come to mind first. But don’t make the mistake of overlooking the best Oregon caves, which are just as easily accessible as a lot of those natural places we already know and love.
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