If the August heat is getting to you, and all the best swimming holes are overrun by vistors, Oregon still has an outdoor adventure that can keep you cool. Head down through southern Oregon to the Siskiyou Mountains, part of the coastal mountain range of Oregon and California. Besides unique geology and wild rivers, this region has an advantage in the summer - the Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve.
This network of natural marble caves was formed by thousands of years of dripping groundwater, and were only discovered in 1974. There are over 15,000 feet of subterranean passages within the cave, with guided tours to introduce visitors to the geology, animals, and plants of the area. And an even cooler sight (pun intended) is the River Styx – the only subterranean Wild and Scenic River in the U.S.
The caves are not open to casual exploration, but there are an array of ranger-led tours that include 90-minute educational sessions about the rock features, flora and fauna of these caves. One can also learn about the nearby watershed and old-growth forests of the Siskiyou Mountains. And in the summertime visitors can go on special adventures, including off-trail caving and candlelight tours.
When ready to head back under the sun, travelers can enjoy the slopes of the Siskiyou Mountains in and around the preserve’s 4,070 acres. Walk through old-growth forests, check out the Big Tree (the thickest Doug fir tree in Oregon at 13 feet) and wander down the network of mountain trails.
The caves are open from March through October, and tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis. Self-guided tours are not allowed. There is no fee to enter Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
The cave tour runs at $10 for those ages 16 and over, and $7 for all under 15. Special tours are priced differently; find details by clicking the “Learn More” button above.