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California Trails

Lava Beds National Monument, CA: Lyon's Trail

Walk an old homestead route that crosses sagebrush plains and passes lava flows and collapsed tubes on this 9.5-mile point-to-point trail.

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You’ll find little shade on this trail, so wear a hat, bathe in sunscreen, and bring plenty of water. In return, you’ll get to wander a pleasant old homestead road amid rabbit and bitterbrush and a smattering of desert wildflowers on the gentle northern flank of the immense Medicine Lake Volcano. Along the way, you’ll cross old lava flows and peer into numerous sinkholes and collapsed lava tubes. Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes.

Start at the northern trailhead, on a gated gravel road just west of Hospital Rock. The first two miles is an easy amble along old roadbed, with Mt. Shasta’s snowy peak glistening to the west. At the first fork in the road, continue south, now on rougher, overgrown tracks and cross a portion of an old lava flow. At the Juniper Butte trail junction take the right fork around the west side. Just a little ways beyond, a few large juniper trees offer a much-needed respite from the sun. 

The trail winds westward, then south again, crossing more ancient lava flows and passing numerous sinkholes and collapsed lava tubes. Look for a natural arch and several short caves created by collapsed tubes. At the junction with the Three Sisters Trail, the route once again becomes easy to follow, one stretch over crumbled red cinders and finally ends at the parking area for Skull Cave. Cool off from your hike and the mid-day heat by descending into the cavernous lava tube for a view of the 110-foot deep ice chamber at the bottom.

-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, BoscoMountainPhoto


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.4



Location: 41.830932, -121.473103

The north end of the Lyons Trail begins on a short gravel road, just west of the Hospital Rock parking area.


Location: 41.830231, -121.47312

Log your party number and entry time on the hiker register. Follow old road south.


Location: 41.81249, -121.456674

Trail junction. The better road turns east at this point; continue south on overgrown, degraded tracks.


Location: 41.809905, -121.455789

Cross an old surface lava flow. Trail is extremely thin through this area–be watchful.


Location: 41.80688, -121.453322

Pass a large, fenced juniper just east of the trail.


Location: 41.795149, -121.451489

Juniper Butte trail junction; continue south, veering right.


Location: 41.79237, -121.452815

A large, shady juniper tree offers some respite from the mid-day sun.


Location: 41.790608, -121.453739

Another shady juniper.


Location: 41.778808, -121.459106

Enter an area dotted with lava sinkholes.


Location: 41.773571, -121.471811

A few trailside junipers offer a nice shade break.


Location: 41.773724, -121.4736

Spot a long, deep crack in the nearby lava flow.


Location: 41.746962, -121.492643

A sign indicates the Schonchin Spur trail, though it is largely overgrown. Continue south.


Location: 41.746503, -121.492551

A large collapse reveals a natural lava bridge, and debris-choked entrance to a lava tube.


Location: 41.742341, -121.49475

Big sinkhole.


Location: 41.741753, -121.495043

Junction with the Three Sisters Trail; continue south.


Location: 41.741504, -121.495108

Another shady tree to escape the sun.


Location: 41.73814, -121.497105

Large lava tube collapse.


Location: 41.731329, -121.506

Big sinkhole. Look for a faint trail descending down to a lava tube cave.


Location: 41.731243, -121.510377

Trail’s end at Skull Cave.

Mt. Shasta

Location: 41.821479, -121.459866

Lyons Trailhead

Location: 41.831072, -121.47171

Homestead Road

Location: 41.825828, -121.467247


Location: 41.799215, -121.4536


Location: 41.791985, -121.452913


Location: 41.747943, -121.491966

Skull Cave

Location: 41.731547, -121.509733

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