Pros: Lava tube exploration.
Cons: Closed part of the year to protect bat habitat.
- Distance from Portland: 3 hours
- Length of Hike: There is no hike, you park at the cave.
- Region: Central Oregon, OR
- Congestion: Low
- Preferable Season(s): Spring, Summer
- Easy to find? No
- Day-Use/Parking Pass Required: Not Required
- Bathroom: No
- Dogs allowed: No
Skylight Cave is 12 miles northwest of Sisters and is very reminiscent of Indiana Jones and The Goonies. The cave is a lava tube which was created when molten lava flowing from a fissure cooled on the outside while molten lava continued to flow in the center leaving a hollow tube.
To better visualize this, imagine a river freezing over hard on the surface, then the water flow is cut off. The water left in the channel continues flowing downstream to the advancing front, leaving a sheet of ice with nothing under it. The cave is entered by going down a ladder in an opening where the roof has collapsed.
Descend down the ladder and head left to the main large cavern with the three skylight openings, or head right to see how far into the lava tube you can go. If you decide to head right, the ceiling height quickly diminishes as you go further into the lava tube. There are points where crawling on your belly in the cold, damp dirt is the only way to advance to the next section. Bringing a helmet or some kind of head protection isn’t a bad idea, as it is easy to forget about the low ceiling height. And that cave ceiling is jagged and unforgiving.
Cave temperatures remain a cool 40 degrees in the summer, so bring layers. Also keep in mind that the cave is damp and the surfaces are abrasive. Bring 2 light sources, a primary and a backup, always a good idea for any spelunking. Skylight Cave is closed from September 30 through May 1 to protect hibernating bats.
There are some openings in the roof where light filters through allowing you to see the walls and floor of the cave quite well. If you throw a bit of dust and dirt in the air, the pillars of light become more visible as shown in the picture above. This cave is both haunting and beautiful when the dust in the air is lit up by the light coming in from above. For this I recommend coming in the morning around 9AM and on a sunny day when it’s been dry.
Follow these because GPS will get you lost! #SkylightCave can be reached from Hwy 20/126 by turning onto forest road 2061 (across from the camp Sherman turnoff) and follow it about 5.5 miles to forest road 1028. turn left on forest road 1028 and follow it about 1 mile to forest road 260. turn left on forest road 260 and follow it about 1 miles where you’ll find the entrance to the cave on the right side of the road. Watch for a very small road marker on the left indicating Road 266; the cave is near this road.
WARNING: The road is narrow, and the bushes on both sides of the dirt road could scratch your paint. Nothing you can’t buff out but still. Something to note if you have a wide car like me.