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Oregon Caves Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Column and chamber, Oregon Caves (bobcat)
Stalactites, Oregon Caves (bobcat)
Angel Falls, Oregon Caves (bobcat)
Narrow flowstone passageway, Oregon Caves (bobcat)
  • Start point: Oregon Caves Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Oregon Caves Exit
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • High Point: 4,260 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Spring into fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

The Oregon Caves National Monument is one of the oldest in the system, established in 1909. The cave itself was discovered by Elijah Davidson in 1874. These underground passageways, really just one cave system, were formed in marble, rather than limestone or dolomite, making them unusual in North America. Groundwater percolated through cracks in the marble over the past half million years or so and gradually hollowed out the caverns by dissolving the native calcite. Unlike the numerous lava tube caves around Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams and in central Oregon, these marble caves exhibit many spectacular cave features, such as stalagmites and stalactites, columns, “curtains”, pools, pearls, popcorn, helictites, flowstone, and cave “bacon”. Many animal fossils have been found in the caves, including the bones of a jaguar.

General cave tours run from late March to the beginning of November. Tickets are sold at the visitor center, first-come first-served. Children must be taller than 3 ½ feet. At the height of the summer tourist season, when tours go every half-hour, you may have to wait up to two hours to get on a tour. Off-trail tours and candlelight tours run on a more limited basis. Warm clothing and good walking shoes are essential! There are some narrow passageways and more than 500 stairs. Tours last about 90 minutes.

The tour begins in the first room of the cave, which is accessible by wheelchair. Then you will be treated to a smorgasbord of the formations listed above in sections labeled Watson’s Grotto, the Throne Room, Miller’s Chapel, and the Ghost Room. The Oregon Caves Exit is an artificial passageway that connects to the Cliff Nature Trail, whence you will descend to the chateau and visitor center.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No entrance fee to the National Monument
  • Cave tours: Adults $10.00, Juniors $7.00 (Interagency Senior Pass $5.00)
  • Tours given late March to early November; every half-hour in summer
  • Children must be taller than 3 1/2 feet
  • Tours last 90 minutes; stairs and narrow passageways involved
  • Wear cold weather clothing
  • Dogs not allowed in cave


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Favorites: Trails and Tales by William L. Sullivan
  • Trails of Crater Lake National Park & Oregon Caves National Monument by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon’s History by William L. Sullivan
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Pacific Northwest National Parks & Monuments: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • Oregon's Southern Cascades: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Campgrounds Hiking Guide by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Hiking Oregon’s Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Oregon Nature Weekends by Jim Yuskavitch

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.