Located roughly 12 miles southeast of Bend and a part of the same lava tube flow that created Arnold Ice Cave, Hidden Forest Cave is a magical and unique geological destination in the middle of Central Oregon's high desert.
Collectively known as the Arnold Ice Cave System, there are 19 caves in total and numerous more collapsed caves (depressions) that measure 4.5 miles from end to end, with most of the caves being little more than a few hundred feet deep. Wind Cave is located just 1.5 miles to the north on the other side of China Hat Road, and it is the longest, measuring 3,839 feet long. Due to its critical bat population, however, Wind Cave is permanently closed. Other notable caves in the system include:
Like the nearby and heavily visited Lava River Cave (5,466 feet long), these lava tubes formed as the top layer of a lava flow was exposed to air. The air cooled the lava, which slowed as it solidified. The lava lower down remained at temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees and continued to flow like a river below the hardened top crust. The lava then drained away and left the empty tube in place. Hidden Forest Cave is unique because its both a lava tube and a nearly 500-foot-long, 40-foot-deep depression where the cave's ceiling collapsed.
Starting on the same trail as Arnold Ice Cave, you'll walk about five minutes down the trail passing two or three other lava depressions before reaching Hidden Forest Cave. You'll know it's Hidden Forest Cave as there is a large grove of ponderosa pines in the middle of the depression, unlike the three to five trees that stand in the middle of others. There is a trail that follows the rim to the back side and gradually winds its way down to the cave's impressive entrance.
Hidden Forest Cave is open year round and is easily accessible. It's a good idea to bring a headlamp or flashlight if you plan to venture further back into the cave. Dogs are prohibited, and climbing or bouldering are not allowed on the cave walls. This cave suffered greatly from vandalism in 2001, and volunteers spent years removing graffiti and rehabilitating the environment near the cave. As always, be respectful. When in the area, you can also enjoy nearby Boyd Cave and Skeleton Cave (by special permit only, call 541.389.8359 for details), roughly 3 miles northwest of China Hat Road.