“A short but exposed trail leading to easy lava tube caves.”
— QuinTCM TCM
You must first obtain a White-nose Syndrome Screening Pass from the rangers at the visitor center before entering any caves.
Individual caves are often closed during some portions of the year to allow bats a place to nest and care for their young.
Features: Cave — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs
The trail is accessed from a parking area on the east side of the main road of the park shortly after the turnoff for Schonchin Butte. The trail is open and flat. The trail runs over the top of Balcony Cave and over a small portion of Boulevard Cave before ending at the entrance to Boulevard Cave. Both Boulevard Cave and Balcony Cave are segments of the northwest branch of the Bearpaw Butte Lava Tube System.
The first cave encountered along the trail is Balcony Cave. Balcony Cave has four entrances: three skylights and one walk-in entrance. About half-way along the trail, two large skylights are easily visible on either side of the trail. Both of these skylights are entrances into the main section of the cave. A smaller third skylight a little further along and to the north of the trail enters a smaller branch of the cave. The walk-in entrance is further along and directly off the trail. The cave is characterized by high, wide benches; shelves; and a small natural bridge. The cave is easy to explore but note the low ceilings in some sections.
Continuing along the trail to where it ends is the entrance to Boulevard Cave. The trail enters a portion of the collapsed tube system where you can go either northeast to East Boulevard Cave or Southwest to the main portions of the cave. East Boulevard Cave is uninspiring and sketchy. The floor is very near the ceiling and is made up entirely of broken lava. The cave itself is very short. To the Southwest is the main chamber of Boulevard Cave. The chamber is fairly large and open on both ends. The entrance to "The Boulevard" is on the northeast side of this chamber and has a very smooth, flat floor. The ceiling throughout The Boulevard never gets below 5 feet. Continuing passed the entrance to The Boulevard, the chamber exits into a collapsed section of lava tube. Straight ahead is Boulevard Bridge.
Also very near these two caves is a cave called Sharks Mouth Cave. This cave can be entered via two crawl ways in a collapsed section of lava tube that are near the smaller third skylight entrance of Balcony Cave. This cave has two branches, both of which have low ceilings in parts. The cave is named for a 2.5-foot-high restriction that is studded with stalactites that resemble large sharks teeth.
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.