When sunshine heats things up in Southern Oregon, the Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve makes for cool exploring. Inside the natural marble caves, formed by dripping rainwater over the ages and first discovered in 1874, you’ll enter another world. Visitors learn about the unique geology, animals and plant life of the area with guided tours among the 15,000 feet of passages within the cave and can see the only subterranean Wild and Scenic River in the U.S. — the River Styx. The caves make a great addition to a trip to see Crater Lake.
Guided caving tours: General cave tours with a forest ranger include a 90-minute discussion of geology, fossils, wildlife and bats within the caves and the watersheds and old-growth forests around them. In the summertime, visitors can sign up for off-trail cave tours, which introduce visitors to caving techniques, etiquette and conservation. Summertime candlelight cave tours offer a sense of how the caves must have appeared to the first explorers. For something spooky-special, come in October for haunted candlelight tours.
Hiking trails: Discover the beauty of old growth forests of the Siskiyou Mountains in and around the preserve’s 4,070 acres. You can choose from the Big Tree (which leads to the thickest Doug fir tree in Oregon at 13 feet), Cliff Nature, Mt. Elijah, Old Growth and Cave Creek trails. You’ll walk through groves of Port Orford cedar and some of the largest Douglas fir trees in the state.
Explore the Chateau: Take a guided tour (or spend the night) at The Chateau at the Oregon Caves, a National Historic Landmark. The rustic 1934 lodge was designed by self-taught architect Gust Liam and constructed out of local materials, including cedar bark, which covers the exterior.
Know Before You Go: Cave tours run mid-spring to late-fall, Thursdays through Mondays, however, Oregon Caves National Monument trails are open year-round to visitors. (Occasionally in winter, snow can temporarily close park roads.) Tickets to the cave tours are sold on a first come, first serve basis at the Illinois Valley Visitor Center, 201 Caves Highway, Cave Junction, Oregon. Tickets are not available at the park.
Self-guided cave tours are not allowed. For maps, directions and information about fees and reservations, check the preserve’s website.