Pluto’s Cave Trail

Difficulty
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Very Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
0.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
1.1 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
10 m
User Ratings
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Directions to Trailhead

Beckoning explorers from all over the state, Pluto’s Cave Trail boasts a unique experience in the Klamath National Forest. Located on the outskirts of Mount Shasta, hikers can explore the lava tubes that were carved nearly 200,000 years ago by lava flow. Adventurers of all ages will be captivated by the complexity of the partially collapsed cavern.

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Route Description for Pluto’s Cave Trail

The next time you find yourself in the Mount Shasta area, a detour the Pluto’s Cave is well worth the time. Immerse yourself in the geologically significant site hidden within the Klamath National Forest. Unfortunately, this area is not dog friendly, so you'll have to leave your pup behind for this adventure. Though there is a trail to the mouth of the cave, the is no explicit trail throughout the cavern—use your judgment and be mindful of your footing on the rocky terrain. There are natural skylights throughout the tunnel that illuminate the path, but we also encourage hikers to bring along a flashlight.

A welcome diversion from the quintessential summit ascents in the area, Pluto’s Cave Trail does the opposite—burrowing underground into the dusty cave. Meander through the high desert abundant with high brush and volcanic rock whilst indulging in the commanding views of Mount Shasta dominating the southern skyline. The site is in an unassuming area, had there not been a trailhead marker, you would never suppose a cave was down the path. Once you enter the cavern, you will be overwhelmed by its grandeur, with 15 m tall ceilings and skylights that illuminate the tunnel. This unique adventure is worth adding to your Northern California itinerary.

Once your camera is charged, and you have a flashlight in hand, you are ready for your expedition. Setting out from the trailhead, Pluto’s Cove Trail travels southwest through the arid terrain adorned with tall brush and the odd lizard. Mind you footing on the rocky outcrops that obstruct the trail as you admire the scene of Mount Shasta towering above. The brush will become thicker before opening to the cave. From here, there is no marked path, but you will northwest down the rockslides into the cave.

Take advantage of the acoustics here and sing a tune as you explore the cave. Unfortunately, you will notice graffiti on the lava rocks—don’t be that person. Admire the magnificence and natural beauty of the tunnel that was carved out by a lava flow thousands of years ago. Take an Instagram photo on one of the boulders beneath the sunbeam piercing through the skylight. Take your time investigating the caves, and when you are ready, head back along the marked path to the trailhead.

Trail Highlights

Pluto’s Cave

Located on the outskirts of Mount Shasta, Pluto’s Cave is a partially collapsed lava tube awaiting exploration. The cave is roughly 190,000 years old, which is not common. Usually, these tubes completely collapse due to erosion, but because Pluto’s Cave is located in a semi-arid climate, it has weathered the test of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Pluto's Cave?

Pluto’s Cave is located on the fringe of Mount Shasta in the Klamath National Forest.

Can you explore Pluto’s Cave?

Yes, visitors can enter and explore the shallow depths of Pluto’s Cave.

Insider Hints for Pluto’s Cave Trail

  • Wear a pair of sturdy footwear as the terrain is extremely rocky
  • Bring a flashlight!
  • Keep an eye out for lizards and snakes as you wander through the high desert to the cave
  • Do not move rocks in an attempt to go deeper into the cave
  • Charge your camera—there are some awesome photo opportunities here

Getting to the Pluto’s Cave Trail Trailhead

Access to the Pluto’s Cave Trail is off 99-97 Cutoff.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    No

  • When to do

    Year-round

  • Pets allowed

    No

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Pluto’s Cave Trail Elevation Graph

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