CA – Lava Beds National Monument (05/22)

Regrets . . . Since retirement I’ve been living the no regrets policy but this park never made it to the top of my list. There’s no excuse as it’s less than 4 hours from my home base.

Well now 97% of park is burned from wildfires in 2020 and 2021.

There’s something for everybody at this park. Geology, history, flora and fauna. With hundreds of caves it’s a spledunkers heaven. So many birds and a wide variety of plants given both the volcanic soil and high desert environment. Plenty of trails of various lengths to hike and explore, although some may be closed due to fire damage.

Rock Art

Pictographs at Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave. Petroglyphs at appropriately named Petroglyph Point (tip the best ones are the furthest from the restroom).


The Schonchin Butte fire lookout was built by the CCC. It’s a nice 500′ elevation gain hike in less than a mile to reach this 360-degree viewpoint where you can see Mt Shasta plus much more.


I hiked to Heppe Cave, Big Nasty and Mammoth Crater and Fleener Chimneys, the latter being my favorite. For cavers there are many options, both semi developed and off the beaten track.


I hiked the trails to Thomas-Wright Battlefield, Gillems Camp and Captain Jacks Stronghold. I wished for more interpretative signage on the first, loved the interpretative booklet for the second, and was sad they were out for the third, although it was my favorite hike. I found you can get them on line at


This high desert, lava landscape is home to many types of flora. I hiked the Three Sisters Trail, which has many species and also offers solitude. Included are blooms I found all over the park during my 3-day visit.

The Three Sisters
Sand Lily
Viola with 1.25″ Bino Bob
Threadleaf Phacelia
Poppies were a bit of a surprise


For convenience I stayed at the Park campground. There’s one GREAT site, the rest are potentially problematic. At least I enjoyed the local sunsets.

For hiking, ask for the list at the Visitor Center. Don’t discount the short hikes. They are worth your time and can be combined with other hikes.

Be aware and prepared for snakes and heat.

Dispersed camping is available outside the park. I enjoyed a few rainbows on my departure date.

Rain is such a rare event, I was thrilled to put on my raincoat.

My spring jaunt has officially begun! It began with a north heading. What’s next? Who knows!

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