As the longest of the nonextreme caves in Lava Beds National Monument, Sentinel Cave is an amazing experience for anyone who isn’t afraid of a little darkness. This cave has you hiking in the dark for about 15-20 minutes and over 3,280 feet. It’s pretty surreal when you do it and make sure to bring a flashlight, here is all the information.
- 3,280 feet plus a .25 mile back to your car
- Must have a good flashlight, preferably for all group members
- Located in the cave loop
Sentinel Cave is in the Cave Loop right next to the Visitors Center with many of the other popular caves. The parking is easily marked, but since it is not a loop you will need to park at the upper or lower entrance. I recommend the lower as it gets the quarter mile hike to the entrance out of the way in the beginning, and then you walk downhill when you exit the cave at the end.
Starting from the lower lot you will be walking along a paved trail for a quarter mile.
This trail is flat and easy to follow. At the end of it, you will reach the entrance to Lower Sentinel Cave.
This entrance has rough rock stairs that you will be walking to get into the cave.
About 40 feet from the entrance you are pretty much in darkness the rest of the 3,200 feet.
The only time this is not the case is when you see a small section where the light shines through a hole in the roof.
The cave has a better-maintained path than many of the others but it is still rough in parts, and you will need to climb over some larger rocks.
Towards the middle of the cave, there is an area with metal bars that keeps you from falling into a giant hole in the cave floor.
Continuing on, there is a metal bridge that takes you across a small chasm you wouldn’t be able to cross easily without it.
I turned my flashlight off while in this cave, and it was pitch black and silent which was crazy.
After that, I finally saw a light which noted the exit of the path.
From here you will climb out on more rough stairs and then take the trail to the road and back down to where you parked.
All in all, this was one of the most fun caves in the park, I mean how often can you walk for 20 minutes in a cave and exit the other end? Be sure to check it out when you are at the park and read more about the Lava Beds National Monument itself here.