I was quite surprised the first time I visited Skylight Cave near Sisters, Oregon for two reasons.
First, my husband and I only ran into three other hikers during our visit. And second, I couldn’t believe that I’ve never heard of this incredible phenomenon before!
Central Oregon has its fair share of lava tubes, but none is more impressive than Skylight Cave. Named after the three skylights that illuminate the cave during certain months, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.
Have you heard of Skylight Cave?
If not, you’re in luck. Today I’ll tell you everything I learned about visiting Oregon’s Skylight Cave during my visit.
Tips for visiting Oregon’s Skylight Cave
- In order to protect the delicate bat habitat, Skylight Cave is CLOSED between October – May.
You + sunscreen = best friends (forever)
- Here’s the sunscreen I’ve used for the past 6+ years, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. You’ll never catch me without it!
Pack a jacket
- The cave averages a chilly temperature of 40 degrees, so bring a warm jacket and wear layers. We stayed down there for over an hour to take a time lapse and I was frozen by the end!
Pack a lantern (or sturdy flashlight)
- You’ll want to pack a sturdy flashlight because your phone will not suffice, believe me – I tried. The ground surface of the lava tube is quite rough and it’s easy to take a tumble if you can’t see where you’re going. Here’s the inexpensive one I keep in the car.
You’ll need hiking boots with good traction
- Hiking shoes with good traction are essential for exploring Skylight Cave. These are my hiking boots, and I’d sleep in them if I could. Yes, they’re that good.
Skylight Cave Oregon
Getting to Skylight Cave
In my opinion, getting to Skylight Cave is the most challenging part of this entire adventure.
Located within the Deschutes National Forest, you’ll take a scenic thirty minute drive from Sisters to reach the entrance of the cave.
The Google Maps pin is accurate but you can also follow these coordinates: 44°20’55.3”N 121°42’55.9”W.
Just make sure to download the map before you hit the road because service in nonexistent in the forest.
We weren’t able to load maps or play music as we approached the cave.
What’s more, the forest service road leading up to Skylight Cave is not well marked and since these roads are unpaved, a high-clearance vehicle is needed.
We drove our Prius during our first visit and had to park 1 mile out because we weren’t able to get past downed trees and the unmaintained forest road seemed too risky.
Upon reaching the entrance of Skylight Cave, we notice two cars parked in a small pullout. If you plan to drive, come early or you’ll need to hike in since parking is limited.
You’ll know you’ve reached the cave when you see posted Forest Service signs and an entrance log.
It’s important to add your name to the visitors log so that the Forest Service can track public use of the cave.
It was interesting to find that folks from all over the world visit Skylight Cave – according to the entrance log, one family was visiting from Switzerland.
Exploring Skylight Cave
Since the magical light beams occur a meter 200 feet from the cave’s entrance, witnessing this spectacle doesn’t even require a hike, I’d call this a short walk.
To get inside the cave, you will descend down a metal ladder and make your way left. It’s important to know that there is a second cave entrance to the right, but the light beams are on the left.
The hardest part about exploring Skylight Cave is convincing yourself to go down the ladder to embrace the cool, damp darkness. I’ll admit, it was kind of spooky for me the first time around.
The light beams can be viewed right from the cave’s entrance but you’re welcome to explore the entire cave if you please, just know it dead ends after 900 feet.
When is Skylight Cave open?
Skylight Cave is only open during the summer months (June – September). This is very fortunate though because that is when the sun perfectly aligns to create the three light beams that illuminate the cave.
I argue that the best time to visit Skylight Cave is when the sun is at its highest on the summer solstice, which occurs between June 20 and June 22.
For reference, we visited the cave in June and couldn’t have been happier with the spectacular light beams.
Best time to see light beams
The light beams are at their fullest around 10am. During our visit, they started to form around 8:20am and disappeared completely by 10:30am.
It’s also helpful to know that the light beams are not visible during overcast days – so check the weather before departing to ensure clear skies during your visit.
We timed our visit with blue skies to ensure we got the light beams in full force. A handful of clouds blocked the lights at certain times but by-and-large they were absolutely incredible for about one two hours.
Just for kicks: After you’re done exploring Skylight Cave, head back out and try to locate the skylights from above. We made an adventure out of it!
Rules for exploring caves in Oregon
Unfortunately, over the past few years there’s been an onset of a deadly fungal disease killing millions of bats in North America. The disease is called white-nose syndrome and it worries scientists (and bat lovers) immensely.
Don’t contribute to the demise of a fragile ecosystem. Make sure to follow the steps below.
If you plan to visit Skylight Cave, you must follow basic decontamination steps before entering:
- Don’t wear the same clothes and shoes you wore into a different cave.
- Remove dirt from your shoes after leaving the cave.
- Clean your hands and exposed skin before getting back in the car to ensure you don’t spread anything from the cave.
P.S. My husband was commissioned to create a video on the Deschutes National Forest by Visit Bend. It took one full year and hiking 80%+ of the trails in Bend to create the video, Skylight Cave makes an appearance! Hope you enjoy. 🙂
If you’re planning to explore more of Bend, Oregon (and I highly recommend you do) read on for more to do.
- 20 JAW-DROPPING Hikes in Bend
- 15+ EPIC Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
- The 7 Wonders of Oregon (+4 More We Should Add ASAP)
- Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to visiting Skylight Cave in Oregon.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below, I’m happy to help.
pin for later
Skylight Cave, Bend Oregon Cave, best hikes in Bend, Skylight Cave, cave with light beams, skylights. Skylight Cave Oregon, Sunlight Cave Oregon, Skylight Cave Oregon light beams cave, light beam cave oregon, light beams cave hike.