Going caving gives me the shivers, and I’m sure it’s a mix between the thrill of clambering around in the dark, and the primitive terror of heading under huge slabs of rock.
But in Oregon, it’d be a shame to miss out on the fun. The rocky geological history of the state (pun intended) means the landscape has a solid handful of caverns and caves open to human exploration. Some of them are best left to the pros, but some, like the Redmond Caves, are friendly to beginners.
You probably wouldn’t guess these caves exist, innocently situated as they are next to the Redmond Airport. The caves are part of the Redmond Caves Park, and are a set of five caverns caused by a collapsed lava tube, nodding to a time when Oregon was shaped by a dramatic volcanic history. It’s estimated that the caves are about 80,000 years.
Some of the caves are easier to explore than others, with Cave #3 and #4 being the easiest to check out. They’re all grouped close enough together that you can wander from one to the next as your curiosity inspires you. The parking area is slap dab next to the caves, so there’s no need to plan for a hike. Just fire up your headlamps and flashlights and wander in.
The cave explorations will be simple in-and-outs, and you won't need more than an hour to investigate all of them. The cave ceilings start high, and slowly lower as you walk deeper, until they become impassible. The cave floors are rocky, but walk-able, so no need to plan for mini bouldering expeditions.
Although the Redmond Caves are relatively short and easy to explore, make sure you make the regular preparations before heading into the dark. The trailhead sign recommends bringing three sources of light into the caves. Be sure to bring sturdy shoes and warm clothing, and don’t be fooled by the simple nature of the caves – they are just as dark and cold as every other underground cavern.
The caves are open year-round. There are no amenities including toilets by the caves, but Redmond is close by. Note that pets are not allowed, and that rattlesnakes have been found in the area.