|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – January 2009
Witness glittering underground gems, skate across frozen ponds, and wander amid towering walls of ice. Just don't try to lick anything.
LAVA BEDS, CA
Descend into an Ice Cave
December temperatures can swing into the high 60s at Lava Beds National Monument. But 100 feet below the cinder-covered surface, in the Crystal Ice Cave, it's below 32°F year-round–prime conditions for ornate ice formations. You'll need a helmet, headlamp, gloves, and kneepads for this four-hour, quarter-mile scoot-and-shimmy past enormous ice columns, rounded stalactites, and an awe-inspiring 20-foot-tall crystal curtain. Afterward, pitch a tent at the lava-covered Indian Well campground north of the visitor center. The next day, squeeze in trips to three other frozen caves: Skull, Heppe, and Merrill (the latter once housed a skating rink). Make reservations three weeks in advance. (530) 667-8113; nps.gov/labe
Soak in the steamy waters of Stewart Mineral Springs. (530) 938-2222; stewartmineralsprings.com
From Redding, drive 70 miles north on I-5 to US 97. Drive 54 miles north to CA 161. Turn right, drive 17 miles to Hill Road, and turn right again; follow signs for the monument's visitor center.