Heppe Cave Trail
ElevationAscent: 75' 23 m
Descent: -26' -8 m
High: 5,306' 1,617 m
Low: 5,240' 1,597 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 10% (6°)
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“Short, easy trail to one of the largest caves in the monument.”— QuinTCM TCM
Heppe Cave is located at the head of the Headquarters Lava Tube System, which was created when the lava in nearby Mammoth Crater overflowed. A steep trail descends about 100 feet from the entrance of the cave to the bottom of the first chamber, where a pool of water is usually found during the warmer months. In fact, this pool of water is typically the largest standing body of water in the monument.
Beyond the water pool, the cave opens into a large collapse that is 168 feet wide and 68 feet deep. On the west side of this collapse is an opening that leads into Heppe Chimney Cave, which sits directly beneath Heppe Chimney. Heppe Chimney is actually a hornito, which is a spatter cone over a lava tube. The central opening of Heppe Chimney is 4 feet wide and 35 feet deep. Although a small alcove at the back of Heppe Chimney Cave sits directly beneath Heppe Chimney, it is not possible to climb through the chimney.
On the east side of the collapse is a large opening leading to Heppe Bridge. Heppe Bridge is a 350-foot long cave that is open on both ends.
After exploring the caves, head back the way you came.
The book "Lava Beds Caves" by Charlie & Jo Larson is an excellent resource and guide for exploring the caves of Lava Beds NM. It is available for purchase at the Visitor Center.
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Photos, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes
Land Manager: U.S. National Park Service - Lava Beds National Monument