Skeleton Cave (Oregon): 7 Insider Tips To Make The Best Of Your Trip  

Skeleton Cave is a fun place to visit that doubles as a refreshing way to fight the summer’s searing heat while learning something new about Oregon.

Explore the magnificent Skeleton Cave in the town of Bend amongst Central Oregon’s volcanic scenery.

Where Is Skeleton Cave?

The Skelton Cave is located on the northern flank of Newberry Volcano near Bend.

It is part of the Deschutes National Forest.

History Of Skeleton Cave

Skeleton Cave is a part of the Arnold Ice Cave System, a system of 19 caverns and depressions produced by a basalt lava flow blasted from the Newberry Volcano 80000 years ago.

American settlers initially discovered the skeleton cave in 1924 when a stick was found within the cave with penciled inscriptions from 1894 that showed someone had been there before.

The cave was once known as Bone Cave.

Still, it was renamed Skeleton Cave when a variety of animal bones were found about a century ago.

“Various creatures, including a horse and an enormous bear, were trapped within,” Braun added.

“The bear was 20% larger than any living bear today, and its bones were transported to the Smithsonian in the 1930s.

According to one idea proposed by Dr. James W. Gidley of the National Museum, the animals fell into the cave because of a hole in the roof.

Gidley was convinced of this because he couldn’t understand why an animal would crawl into the cave to die.

Walter J. Perry and Phil Brogan used a compass and pacing approach to survey the cave. They measured 3,036 feet.

Perry later drew the cave entrance’s shape and a side route at 1,734 feet inside the cave that became known as the Bear Passage.

Most of the skeletons and bone dust were discovered in this same tunnel.

The cave was surveyed, and his map created a 3-300 feet long.

A further thorough study in 1971 discovered a more precise length of 3:560 feet.

Boyd Cave, like Skeleton Cave, is part of the same lava flow and leads to the Bear Passage, also known as the Tributary Tube.

The cave and others nearby have recently been investigated, and an environmental impact study was completed.

The parking lot of Skeleton Cave, in particular, was moved to reduce the impact on the cave’s vegetation and resources.

What To Expect On A Visit To Skeleton Cave

A trip into Skeleton Cave is great for the curious and is only a short distance from the parking area.

The path begins near the Arnold Ice Cave Trail and Coyote Loop Trail intersection and leads to Skeleton Cave as a side excursion from the Arnold Ice Cave Trail.

Once there, you will enter a lava tunnel over forty kilometers away from the Newberry Volcano.

Lava flowed from there several thousand years ago, forming a massive tunnel. The lava river poured, then emptied, leaving a hollow tube behind.

For those prepared to crawl into tight areas and drop into a sub-level, the skeleton cave opens into a cavern with a skylight and a steel barrier restricting admission into the rest of the lava tube.

Again, safety is crucial, as is the realization that rocks might move and entrap you. This lava tube system may also be seen 12 miles outside Bend, Oregon, along the China Hat Road.

They restricted access to Skeleton Cave to members of the public.

The US Forest Service has granted Wanderlust Trips a permit to offer tours beginning May 1 and continuing through summer.

Because of damage to the cave interior, they have restricted entry for several years to safeguard the sensitive ecosystem, which may turn pitch dark in a heartbeat.

It’s a fascinating and strange place to visit and a fantastic learning opportunity.

Every year, from October 15 to May 1, a seasonal shutdown is imposed to allow bats to hibernate.

Visiting The Skeleton Cave With Wanderlust Trips

Bend’s lava caves contain a fragile environment that only a few people fully appreciate!

The only tour company allowed in these unique lava caverns is Wanderlust Tours.

So gather your family or friends together, switch on your headlights, put on your helmets, and prepare to be taken below by Wanderlust Tours naturalist guides to explore a volcanically created cave.

Caving is a fantastic opportunity to experience what it’s like to be an adventurer.

Allow the light to illuminate your route as your guide tells you about the caverns’ remarkable geology and creation.

You’ll be navigating through a wild cave, over and around rock outcroppings, looking for native creatures, and learning about the cave’s remarkable history.

What Is The Difficulty Level For Skeleton Cave?

These caverns are similarly undeveloped, which means they lack a paved walkway or illumination. For navigating the rough rocky ground, closed-toe shoes are advised.

Cave Difficulty:

The skeleton cave is rated moderately challenging by Wanderlust tours because it has many enjoyable possibilities for scrambling up/down/around rocky places and crawling through short corridors.

Mother Nature has produced a fantastic assortment of caves that provide a wide range of experiences.

All the caves you will visit are still natural, so aside from the stairway used to enter them, no man-made alterations have been made to the caverns (walkways or lights).

As a result, the walking terrain is uneven and can be challenging and rocky to varying degrees.

This cave is of intermediate difficulty because it offers several options for scrambling up/down/around rocky parts and crawling through short channels.

On all our cave excursions, our guides ensure that the pace is appropriate for all party members so that everyone may travel at their own speed.

What Will The Guides Show You In The Skeleton Cave?

The guides will discuss the region’s geology—how gigantic volcanoes built these wonders—during our two hours in the darkest, in one of the quietest, darkest areas on earth.

Alternatively, they may discuss how the cave ecosystem supports species vital to human survival.

Along with discoveries about natural and cultural history that will keep your head humming with excitement long after you’ve returned home.

Skeleton Cave Tour Cost And Times

The tour is $100 per person and $75 for children aged 11 and under. The tour is not recommended for children under five.

June 1 – September 30

9:00 AM | 2:00 PM

October 1 – May 31

9:00 AM | 1:30 PM | 7:00 PM

Transportation: Departing from Wanderlust Tours officewhich is 20-25 minutes one-way.

What Should You Bring On The Wanderlust Skeleton Cave Tour?


  • A professional guide and interpreter.
  • Gear: headlight and helmet.
  • Transportation: You will be taken to the cave.


  • Layers: Warm layers of clothing as the caves are cool!
  • Miscellaneous Gear: Water bottle, closed-toe shoes, and camera.


By reading through this information and tips, you will be ready to enjoy a lifetime tour through the Skeleton Cave.

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