If you’re feeling brave and ready to explore, take a trip just 12 miles southeast of Bend to the extraordinary Arnold Ice Cave. You’ll find yourself deep in Central Oregon’s wilderness off China Hat Road surrounded by sagebrush, juniper trees, and ponderosa pines guarding an incredible volcanic underworld that was crafted about 80 thousand years ago thanks to a basalt lava flow.
The awe-inspiring caverns nestled within the northern summit of Newberry Volcano are known to harbor ancient Native American artifacts that have been dated all the way back to 1370 A.D. Once referred to as “Crook County Ice Caves,” Ronald Greeley, an explorer for Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, christened them with their current moniker following extensive examination of these lava tubes’ remarkable features. Mirroring the nearby and well-traveled Lava River Cave (5,466 feet long), these lava tubes were formed when the top layer of a molten flow came into contact with air. As this outer crust cooled down from temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Farenheit to solidify, hotter liquid lava underneath continued steadily flowing like a river beneath it. When all the magma eventually drained away through time what remained was an empty tube in place.
Arnold Ice Cave will mesmerize you with its otherworldly glacial beauty. Walls of ice are formed from ground water seeping through basalt and into the caverns, leading to an array of frozen stalagmites that sparkle in the light. Mining debris left over from 1950s operations is visible for those who explore this icy paradise! This incredible arctic wonderland was once used commercially in Bend and still captivates all travelers today.