Oregon Caves National Monument

Oregon Caves Chateau on a sunny October afternoon.

If you’re driving along Hwy 199 to or from the California or Oregon coast and I-5, a stop off the beaten path at Oregon Caves National Monument is well-worth a few hours of your time! A beautiful 20 mile drive from the highway (up OR-46), Oregon Caves offers cave tours of one of the few marble caves in the world, easy hiking trails, a gorgeous lodge with dining, and breathtaking scenery.

The cave is definitely the main attraction, but keep in mind that kids MUST be at least 42″ to take the tour. Our five-year-old was finally tall enough this fall, so we spent a beautiful Sunday here just last weekend. The tour is 90 minutes, and the cave temperature is approximately 45 degrees, so dress warmly even in summer! (Jackets are available to borrow in the Visitor’s Center, which we found to be a nice touch.) The tour, which winds its way almost a mile through the extensive cave system, was very interesting and kept all our kids’ attention despite its length. Our guide, Suzan, was very knowledgeable and great with the kids in our tour, and encouraged lots of questions. The kids loved climbing all the stairs, ducking in the narrow sections, and spotting bats! The tour is lighted, but at several points, they’re turned off to give visitors a feel of how dark it actually is in the cave. Our kids couldn’t get enough; even my youngest, who’s afraid of the dark!

Toby and Nate head into the interior of the cave!

Adjacent to the cave, the Oregon Caves Chateau is a National Park Landmark and a truly beautiful place to stay. We enjoyed looking around, checking out the gift shop, and taking in the view from the main lobby before returning to our tree house accommodations at Out ‘N About Treesort in nearby Cave Junction.

If caving isn’t for you, try one of the many moderate hikes in the area (trail heads start at the Visitor’s Center). And don’t forget: ask a ranger about their Junior Ranger program! Kids are rewarded with pins and an impromptu award ceremony upon completing their material! We can’t recommend this program enough: no matter what park you visit, your kids will come away from the experience with a better understanding of the area’s history and natural treasures after completing Junior Rangers!

Distance from the nearest interstate: On OR-46, approximately 20 miles for Hwy 199 and 50 miles from I-5.

Date Last Visited: October 2010

Hours: The monument is a seasonal attraction. Tours are offered spring, summer, and fall, from 9 am to as late as 6 pm.

Calvin and Toby earn their Junior Ranger badges in the Visitor’s Center.

Admission Prices: Admission to the monument is FREE. Cave tours are $8.50 for adults, $6.00 for children (under 17).

Dining options: The Oregon Caves Chateau offers both fine dining and a casual diner with fun atmosphere, which we recommend. Otherwise, several options can be found in Cave Junction (20 miles), including locally famous Wild River Pizza (on Hwy 199).

Website: http://www.nps.gov/pwr/orca/

Directions: From I-5, take exit 58 to merge onto NE 6th St/OR-99/Redwood Hwy. Continue to follow Redwood Hwy (3 miles), then turn right at US-199 to Cave Junction (28 miles). Turn left on OR-46 (a gas station is on the corner) and follow OR-46 for 20 miles to the monument.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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