Whitney Butte (Lava Beds National Monument) 27-Aug-2015

Whitney Butte Black Lava Flow Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument has a lot of caves but it also has some above-ground hiking trails that make a nice counter-point to time spent crawling around in the dark. Starting from the Merrill Ice Cave parking lot, the trail to Whitney Butte is basically an easy hike through open country,

Lava Beds National Monument Whitney Butte
Start of the trail to Whitney Butte and the Black Lava Flow Wilderness

with good views of Mount Shasta to the west,

Lava Beds National Monument Whitney Butte
Mount Shasta

past Whitney Butte – we were dissuaded from climbing it due to an unfortunate juxtaposition of shorts, long grass, and rattlesnakes (a hike up it might have been easy and fun, given colder weather and longer pants) –

Lava Beds National Monument Whitney Butte
Whitney Butte

to the face of the Black Lava flow.

Lava Beds National Monument Whitney Butte
Face of the Black Lava Flow, with Mount Shasta on the horizon

The face of the flow is around 30-50 feet high and speaks to the bulldozing power of large masses of molten rock in motion. We tried climbing up on it but that was like balancing on large razor blades – not AT ALL forgiving if you miss a foot or hand-hold and slip. A short hike (6 miles round-trip; little elevation gain) but a nice balance for a day otherwise spent underground.

Lava Beds National Monument Whitney Butte
Our track to and from Whitney Butte and the Black Lava Flow

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