7 Of America’s Most Eerily Beautiful Lava Tubes

For most hikes, the destination — whether it be the top of a dramatic cliff or the foot of a tall waterfall — is the reward.

But then there are lava tube hikes, where passing through and exploring the mysterious and alluring caves is the reward.

Lava tubes are cavernous tunnels that formed long ago when the outermost layer of a lava stream crusted, enclosing the fiery flow beneath. When the lava flow eventually drained by oozing through natural openings or rupturing through the surface, it left behind dark passageways with twists, turns and eerie formations.

From the lava fields of Hawaii to the lava river beds of Arizona, America has a variety of these fascinating grottos, each one unique in its own way.

Some lava tubes, like the Nāhuku tube on Hawaii’s Big Island, are short, easy to access and surrounded by lush forests. Others, like the tubes beneath Lava Beds National Monument in California, are caves deep in the Earth, just waiting to be explored.

Just be careful, some lava tube hikes require a flashlight, hard hat, climbing gear or knee pads — always come prepared and always exercise caution.

Below are seven lava tubes you can hike through, each one as eerie as it is beautiful.

1. Ka’eleku Caverns, Maui

These caves are a worthy detour off the island’s scenic and remote Road to Hana.

A photo posted by @hike_explore_photograph on Jan 8, 2015 at 3:45pm PST

2. Lava Beds National Monument, California

This remote park near the Oregon border holds the largest concentration of lava tubes in the United States.