Lava Beds extensive guide to Berkeley and San Francisco area, plus inspiring articles about trips around the world

Berkeley and Beyond



From Lassen Volcanic National Park, go north on Highway 89 to Highway 299.  Continue north on Highway 139, taking it through sparsely populated forest and farmland.  The monument is approximately 115 miles northeast of Mt. Shasta City/Highway 5, and 375 miles northeast of San Francisco. 

          This 46,000-acre national monument is located in the middle of nowhere.  It has a campground, but the nearest motels and restaurants are far away in Tulelake.  There is nowhere to buy food within many miles of the monument, so it is a good idea to pack-in picnic supplies.  In fact, this could be where the expression "out in the tules" originated.  The area also buzzes with insects, is a haven for rattlesnakes, and sometimes has plague warnings posted.  Still, it is an unusual place that is well worth a visit.
          The Visitors Center at the southern entrance offers a good orientation.  Historically, this area was the site of the 1872 Modoc War--the only major Indian war fought in California.  Geologically, the area is of interest because of its concentration of lava tube caves. 
          Park admission is $10 per vehicle.


Caves  Located a short walk from the Visitors Center, Mushpot Cave has interpretive displays and is the only lighted cave here.  A 2-mile loop road leads to 13 caves developed for easy access, including some with descriptive names such as Blue Grotto, Sunshine, and Natural Bridge.  The 71-step staircase at Skull Cave descends 80 feet to an ice floor, and some of Catacombs must be crawled through.  Lanterns are available to borrow.

Captain Jack’s Stronghold  Modoc Indians battled the U.S. Army from this lava fortress from 1872 to 1873.

Petroglyph Point  Located on the eastern edge at Tule Lake. A large concentration of Native American rock art is estimated to date back more than 6,000 years.

Nearby Attractions

Tule Lake Wildlife Refuge and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge  4 mi. S of Oregon border; Visitor Center:  4009 Hill Rd., in Tulelake.  Free.  The gravel road north out of the monument passes through the Tule Lake portion of this scenic area, which is the largest wetlands west of the Mississippi.  These refuges are home to a variety of interesting birds that are easily viewed from a car.  In winter, they have the densest concentration of bald eagles in the U.S. south of Alaska.

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Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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