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A bike ride across the Sundial Bridge in Redding, Ca
Two people hiking next to a lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Kayaking and paddleboarding at Shasta Lake
Middle McCloud Falls
Kyle Sheppard
A family at Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark in Redding, CA.

Going Underground in Redding: An Insider's Guide

By Redding CVB | 02/19/2020 | Caves, Family Friendly , Great Outdoors, Lakes, State & National Parks, Things to See and Do, Top-Sights, Tours, Trails

Sitting at the southern edge of the Cascade Range, Redding, California, has long been a literal hotbed for volcanic activity. Mt. Shasta lords over the horizon, Lassen Volcanic National Park sits an hour’s drive east, and millions of years of lava flows and eruptions have left their mark all over the region. All that volcanic activity has created a large number of caves—many of which are open for underground exploration, offering another glimpse of the region’s explosive past. Here’s a look at where to go underground around Redding—whether you’re a first-time caver or a seasoned veteran—along with what to know before hitting the road.

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Know Before You Go


The Lake Shasta Caverns tour has multiple cathedral rooms

All the following outings are accessible even to novice adventurers—but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before heading underground. Here’s a quick rundown:

Cave climate: Temperatures don’t fluctuate much in caves, with averages generally between 45 degrees and 55 degrees all year long; bring a jacket, long-sleeve shirt, hat, and closed-toed shoes or boots to keep warm.

Lighting: Don’t bring lanterns, which can burn out and be tough to reignite; instead, bring a flashlight or headlamp—and pack along a back-up with fresh batteries, just in case.

Hands off: Take care not to touch rock formations, artifacts, or Native American artwork (especially in Lava Beds National Monument). Doing so can rub away the markings and degrade the quality of artifacts.

Leave no trace: Don’t eat, drink, dispose of trash, or use the bathroom while exploring caves.

Sound like fun? Here are three of your best bets for caving in the region:

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Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark



One of the classic Shasta Lake experiences—regardless of season—is touring the Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, a network of limestone caves that shows off millions of years of natural history. Each guided tour covers 32 varieties of cave formation, offers up-close views of rock formations, and discusses the cavern’s 250-million-year history; highlights include trips through the Crystal Room and sweeping Cathedral Room. And best of all: The tours don’t require any climbing or crawling.

There’s plenty to love above ground, too: Tours include a catamaran cruise across Shasta Lake, a bus ride to the cave entrance, and an informative overview of the caves. (Keep in mind that the full cave tour includes more than 600 stairs; visitors may opt to exit the caves at the halfway point and watch a narrated video in the visitor center.)

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Lava Beds National Monument


Cave at Lava Beds National Monument.
Lava Beds National Monument is home to more than 700 caves. @Californiathroughmylens (Instagram)

Sitting just about 15 miles from the Oregon border, the Lava Beds National Monument is awash in history. The 47,000-acre preserve is home to more than 700 caves, Native American rock art sites, historic battlefields, campsites, and high desert wilderness. It’s possible to head into some of those 700 caves—most of which were created by lava flows between 10,500 and 65,000 years ago. In all, roughly two dozen caves are open to exploration, some with easily accessible walk-ins and others with passages only 12 inches high.

Given the sheer volume of underground attractions, it’s tough to narrow down a list of favorites. Some of the monument’s most popular ones include the 770-foot Mushpot Cave—lined by a paved, well-lit path with interpretive panels showcasing the cave’s history—and the 1,635-foot Valentine Cave, home to high ceilings, wide trails, pillars, lava pools, and other fascinating natural features.

Other attractions throughout the monument include hiking trails, Native American pictograph viewing, and historical information on the Modoc War of 1872-1873 (which was fought in the area between the Native American Modoc people and the U.S. Army).

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Subway Cave


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The 1,300-foot-long Subway Cave is easily accessible to visitors. mmmmngai@rogers.com

Just over an hour east of Redding, in Lassen National Forest, sits one of the region’s largest, most accessible lava flows: Subway Cave—part of a perfect day-trip loop that includes Burney Falls and Lassen Volcanic National Park. Following a short walk from the parking lot, visitors arrive at a set of concrete stairs at the cave’s entrance, along with signs that explain the origins of the cave. Once inside, the 1,300-foot-long cave is completely dark with a dirt floor—but no crawling or hard hats are required.

Written by Matt Wastradowski for Matcha in partnership with Redding CVB.

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READ MORE
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