Hike-in Required
ADA accessible
Guided tours
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Like nearby Black Butte and the Metolius River, Skylight Cave is another fascinating result of volcanic activity in Central Oregon. The cave is actually a lava tube that was formed when lava flow temperatures closer to the surface cooled more quickly than the lava beneath it; as the lava flow continued and eventually stopped, the hard layer remained in tact over an empty space.

Skylight Cave is so named for sections in the cave's upper layer that have fallen through, allowing for dramatic shafts of light to filter through at certain times of day (usually in the morning). The entrance to the cave is a hole in the ground where the roof of the lava tube has caved in. You'll find a ladder that descends into the opening; descend and head left to the main large cavern with the three skylight openings, or head right to see how far into the lava tube you can go.

If you decide to head right, the ceiling height quickly diminishes as you go further into the lava tube. There are points where crawling on your belly in the cold, damp dirt is the only way to advance to the next section. Bringing a helmet or some kind of head protection isn't a bad idea, as it is easy to forget about the low ceiling height, and the cave ceiling is jagged and unforgiving.

Cave temperatures remain a cool 40 degrees in the summer, so bring layers. Also keep in mind that the cave is damp and the surfaces are abrasive. Two light sources, a primary and a backup, are highly recommended for any cave exploration. Sunset Cave is closed from September 30 through May 1 to protect hibernating bats.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Lava tube exploration.


Closed part of the year to protect bat habitat.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed


Geologically significant



They say the best time to see all 3 light shafts is between 8am-10am. We arrived around 9:15-9:30 and we only saw 2, but still very cool. It changes by the minute. Perhaps we just missed all 3 as they others started to dim too, maybe since it is later in the year now.
In the directions this last piece of info is inaccurate: "Take a right onto RD 260 / NF-2060 , follow for 0.25 miles and the cave will be on the right."

Follow 260/NF-2060 for 0.7 miles. There's a very small (two cars?) primitive parking area with a sign board, easy to miss.
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