Subway Cave: Old Lava Tube in Lassen National Forrest

I have to give it up to Nate and Kat for this one, I saw them visit the cave on their epic road trip they are doing and knew I needed to experience it. This subway cave is one of the largest, easily accessible lava caves in the world. It is literally a two minute walk from the parking lot to the entrance and don’t worry, even if you are claustrophobic like me, you should do OK in this cave as it is wide open and never feels to tight.

Subway Cave 13


  • 1/3 of a mile long
  • Pitch black so you must have a light
  • Cave usually hovers at 46 degrees so bring a jacket
  • Only open from May to October
  • Here is a map of the cave

Subway Cave 2

If you check out the map below you can see this cave is long enough to actually utilize a map so that is saying something and there are a lot of things to check out as you explore.

Subway Cave 3

It is 1/3rd of a mile long which gives you a great taste of what a lava tube can be like but is still over pretty fast. Here are some of the highlights. I know pictures of a cave inside are not super exciting but hopefully this post pushes you to go explore it yourself!

Subway Cave 17

Devil’s Kitchen

After a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, which has bathrooms, you arrive at the opening to the cave, which is named Devils Kitchen. From the kitchen you make your descent into the cave.

Subway Cave 11

The cave itself is very wide at the openings, I would say about 20-30 feet across. Make note of the ground though as you head in and start to lose light, it is very jagged and should not be taken lightly.

Subway Cave 6

The first thing from the map you will run into is lucifer’s cul-de-sac.

Lucifer’s Cul-de-sac

Subway Cave 18

This area starts as a split in the cave and as soon as we got to this split we all wondered what way we should go. Turned out that we only needed to go to the right but we went left as well as we wanted to leave nothing unexplored and saw lucifer’s cul-de-sac. It’s just a big room with about 6 foot ceilings as you enter and 15 foot ceilings when you get in.

Subway Cave 14

From there you proceed forward and are already half way done with the cave. Just in case you are wondering where you are in the cave, there are many map placed inside that you can see as well.

Subway Cave 8

I noticed a particularly low area and shined my headlamp to take a picture of how the ceiling looks.

Subway Cave 16

We explored everything we could before finally seeing a small bit of light from the exit.

Subway Cave 7

As we proceeded forward towards that exit we were greeted with lots of strange rock formation on the ground such as this.

Subway Cave 10

It also appears that some sort of cave in helped to create the exit.

Subway Cave 12

After getting back into the light we all were surprised it was over so fast and really wished there was more to explore.

Subway Cave 4

That being said though, this is an amazing cave that has been protected very well and provides and awesome adventure. It is one of my favorite hikes I have been on this year just because it is so unique. Check out the rest of the pictures below and make sure to leave a comment.

Photo Gallery


Get Directions

Center map

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  • Candace Agnew

    Wowzee, Zowzee, this is a MUST SEE!!!

    • Ya it was really unique!

  • Patricia Wren

    I love it up there the cave is amazing I’ve been through it several time my family goes camping at the cave camp ground across the street from the cave you should try going in at night take a lot of flash lights with strong batteries.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, it would be a lot of fun to explore it at night time!