Skylight Cave is one of Oregon’s incredible natural phenomena.
The attraction is in Deschutes County, the USA, about nine miles north west from Sisters, east of Belknap Crater.
The tourist highlight is noted for its three skylights, which shine down into the cave, emitting spectacular beams of light.
According to forest officials, the little cave is a tube formed from the lava erupting from the neighboring Sixmile Butte.
When the lava cooled, and thin portions of the ceiling fell, the three skylights appeared spontaneously.
The volcanic heritage is visible outside the cave, with the vistas of Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Black Butte.
A steel ladder is used to access the cave through a fallen ceiling.
The cave’s most remarkable features are the cave’s three hornitos (a low mound in volcanic regions that emits smoke and vapors) and skylights in the eastern tunnel.
The cave may have had additional hornitos throughout its creation, as shown by the many tiny cupolas that line its route.
It’s possible that the entry was a collapsed hornito.
The eastern path preserves the original formation, but the western passage is full of sand and clay and some breakdown piles.
The western route is harder to negotiate and takes longer.
Visiting The Skylight Cave
It’s unlikely that you’ll come across another cave-like the Skylight Cave. It is a fascinating experience.
Because there is no service for most of the journey, it is advised that you get an offline map of the region ahead of time.
You’ll have to drive around 6-7 kilometers on some dirt/gravel roads to reach there, so cars with low clearance aren’t suggested.
This is probably achievable in a 2WD car, but it is best accomplished in a 4WD vehicle.
Once inside the cave, you can go left or right. If you take the right path, you can explore the cave for around 900 feet until it comes to a halt.
If you turn left instead, you’ll go about 300 feet towards some light.
As you get closer, you’ll see three holes with light pouring through them in the cave’s ceiling.
If you visit the caves at the right time of day, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular show of sunlight streaming through the cave ceiling’s “skylights”!
The cave’s dampness and dust will cause these dazzling rays to reach from their skylights to the ground. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to witness all three light beams simultaneously.
Where Is Skylight Cave?
Skylight Cave is located approximately an hour’s drive from Bend, Oregon.
- From Highway 20/126, take Forest Road 2061/Geo McAllister (immediately across from the Camp Sherman turnoff) for 5.5 miles to Forest Road 1028.
- Don’t carry on down Highway 2060, Geo McAllister paved road as it eventually takes you past a private farm and onto small roads with brush that will scratch the paint off your car.
- Instead, to get on 2061, take the first turn right off Geo McAllister Road, close to the highway, which is a dirt road for the next 5.5 miles.
- Keep an eye out for a little road marker on the left that says Road 266; the cave is close to this road. A bulletin board with a sign-in sheet should also be present.
- Remember to sign to let the forest service know how many individuals have come.
- After approximately a mile, Skylight Cave will be on the right. A forest service sign can be found on the roadside.
- You will now be near the Skylight Caves to finish the journey on foot.
Google maps give accurate directions for the cave. However, you’ll have to rely on your eyesight once you’re heading toward the cave.
You’ll eventually come upon a sign on the right that tells you a little about the cave. Then behind the sign lies the entrance to Skylight Cave.
Parking At Skylight Cave
Because parking is not permitted at the cave’s entrance, drive back a short distance and park on the turnoff.
A forest service sign with several bulletins marks the cave’s entrance.
One of which notes that the cave is restricted from October to May to protect the hibernating Townsend’s Big-Eared bat habitat.
You must descend a tiny, robust metal staircase to access the cave.
After about 300 feet, you’ll come across the “skylights” if you turn left.
There are around 900 feet of the cave to explore if you turn right, but it eventually stops.
These instructions may vary, as the woodland paths are known to be obstructed by fallen trees from time to time.
Contact the Deschutes Forest Ranger Station in the town of Sisters for the most up-to-date data for the latest directions to Skylight Cave.
They may also offer an educational handout. You can contact them in person at US-20 & S Pine St or by phone at 541-549-7700. (M-F, 8am-4:30pm).
Best Time Of Year To Visit The Skylight Cave
Because the beams aren’t on show all the time, you’ll have to schedule your visit to Skylight Cave to enjoy the full impact.
The Skylight cave will only be open over the summer months. However, this is when the three beams of light illuminate the inside of the cave, making it the most excellent time to visit.
It is advised that you visit between 8 and 10 a.m. to witness the beams in their full grandeur.
Unfortunately, the sun’s angle prevents light rays from shining into the cave.
Remember that you cannot see the beams on gloomy days, so try to go on a day with a clear sky with direct sunshine.
Tips For Skylight Cave
- You may need to descend inside the cave using some chopped-down tree trunks that serve as a makeshift ladder. A metal ladder also appears to be placed there occasionally.
- Because portions of the cave are entirely dark, you’ll need at least one light source. The skylights at the end of the tunnel will provide light, but the ground is uneven, so be careful.
- You’ll need your tripod if you’re a photographer because while the light beams bring a lot of illumination, the cave is still very dark. It’s also a good idea to bring a lens towel because of the cave dust.
- Wear running or hiking shoes since the caverns have many boulders to trip over.
- Layer up since it’s a chilly 40 degrees here in the summer.
- From September 20th until May 1st, Skylight Cave is closed due to hibernating bats.
- If you’re visiting other caverns on the same day, thoroughly clean your shoes. An illness called white-nose syndrome can kill Townsend’s Big-Eared bats, caused by a fungus that people may carry in from other caves. Wearing the same clothing in different caves without washing them is not a good idea.
- When you leave the cave, clean the dirt off your shoes.
- Before returning to your vehicle, wash your hands and any exposed skin.
What a fantastic experience and a social media photo opportunity! Plan and prepare to visit the Skylight Caves on your next vacation or out-of-town trip.
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