A gem of an adventure in Central Oregon, the Skylight Cave is a fascinating remnant of the region’s volcanic past. The cave itself is actually an old lava tube that was born when surface temperatures cooled the top layer of a magma flow faster on top than below. When the molten rock solidified, it created a top layer that magma ran through like a subterranean stream, until the flow stopped. That left an empty lava channel, covered by a hardened shell of volcanic rock.
Today Skylight Cave gets its name from the amount of light that filters down through parts of the lava tube roof that have fallen through. At certain times of the day, sunlight streams through in dramatic, almost magical plays of light. They’re a welcome touch from the outside world, as the rest of the cave is damp, cold, and boulder-strewn.
The entrance to the cave is one of these natural skylights, with a ladder placed for an easy decent. From there things get rougher, with a rapidly dropping ceiling height to the point that a little belly crawling might be necessary. The roof is jagged, and cave temperatures remain in the 40 degree range, even in high summer. However, if you remain in the first large cavern, you can enjoy the sight of the gentle play of light without rougher spelunking adventures.
- Two light sources, a primary and a backup, are highly recommended for any cave exploration.
- Bundle up against the cold, and head protection is suggested.
Sunset Cave is closed from September 30 through May 1 to protect hibernating bats.