Lava Canyon provides options for both the timid hiker and the adventurous explorer. The hike begins with a paved, ADA-accessible trail that leads to a waterfall viewpoint. This portion of Lava Canyon is the easiest and leads you through a series of interpretive signs that describe the formation of this geological wonder. From the waterfall viewpoint, the trail continues down into the canyon by a series of switchbacks.
Losing elevation at a gradual pace, the main Lava Canyon trail continues east into the canyon along the river. Although this trail won’t provide grand views to the distant mountain peaks, it will provide countless overlooks to waterfalls carved into the landscape created by past volcanic activity. The trail below the waterfall viewpoint becomes more difficult because it is no longer paved and follows the cliff-lined canyon walls. The exposure in this lower area can be intense at times, and hikers of all skill levels should proceed with caution due to the loose rocks on the trail.
Overall, descending below the waterfall viewpoint is worth the effort. Beyond the numerous waterfalls, a 125-foot cable suspension bridge allows hikers to return on the south side of the canyon. About a mile past the suspension bridge, a small side trail leads to "The Ship," a tall fin of lava. A stand of trees atop the fin appear to be masts rising from a ship of rock. The spur trail leads to the crest of this formation, offering views of a series of small waterfalls in the lower canyon. Even further down into the canyon is a 30-foot ladder descending a cliff and providing access to the lowest level of Lava Canyon. The Lava Canyon trail ends just beyond the ladder at the intersection with Smith Creek Trail #225.