Skeleton Cave

Useful Information

Open: MAY to 14-OCT daily 9, 13:30.
Fee: Adults USD 55, Children (5-12) USD 50, Children (0-4) not allowed.
Classification: Speleologylava tube
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=1,011 m, VR=30 m.
Guided tours: D=3 h.
Address: Wanderlust Tours, Tel: +1-541-389-8359, Toll Free: 800-962-2862, Fax: 541-383-4317. E-mail: contact
U.S. Forest Service, Deschutes National Forest, 1001 SW Emkay Drive, Bend, OR 97702, Tel: +1-541-383-4785.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1894 grafitties of early visit.
1924 cave discovered.
1928 surveyed by Walter J. Perry and Phil Brogan.


The Skeleton Cave is one of the hundreds lava tubes in Deschutes National Forest. Several caves are freely open to the public, this one is actually closed. But it is possible to join guided tours by Wanderlust Tours, Inc.. This are semi wild tours, not real cave trekking tours as the cave is big enough so there is no need to crawl or get really dirty. Nevertheless, warm clothes, sturdy walking shoes, and some surefootedness are necessary. Helmets with headlamps are provided, additional lamps are always a good idea. For the three hour tour enough water and some food are also recommended.

The cave is notable for a side passage named Bear Passage, where a huge amount of animal bones was discovered. The skylight entrance of the cave is like a trap, animals who fall in can not escape, and most hid in the side passage where they finally died. The bones include numerous Pleistocene animals, like horse (Equus niobrarensis), bear, deer, elk, alopex fox, gray fox, wolf, lynx, rodents, and small carnivores.

The cave has a rather strange history, it seems it was used by a moonshiner around 1894. In this year the cave was visited and the illegal still discovered, a grafitty on the wall is the only evidence of this story. The official discovery was in 1924. Subsequently the cave was explored and surveyed by Deschutes National Forest staff, Walter J. Perry and Phil Brogan. The first survey from 1928, made with a compass and pace method, resulted in a length of 3,036 feet. Perry made a ground plan and included an unsurveyed side passage, the famous Bear Passage. He claimed it to be 1,734 feet long, a weird number if you recall that he did not survey it.

In 1971 the cave was described, including a survey and map, by Ronald Greeley in his article Geology of Selected Lava Tubes in the Bend Area, Oregon. He surveyed a total length of 3,300 feet. Soon after another survey by Jim Nieland gave a length of 3,560 feet. We used the number given in the List of Bob Gulden.

Several years ago there was a staircase into the collapse doline. Unfortunately the cave was vandalized and so the officials had the staircase removed. The cave is now closed, except for the Wanderlust trips during summer. Even the parking lot was relocated further away from the cave. Because of this we decided to give no location of this cave.