This trail leads three quarters of a mile northwest from Skull Cave Road to Symbol Bridge. You have the opportunity to view volcanic formations as well as Native American pictographs along this route. The trailhead lies on the northern side of the road. A half mile from it you'll reach a trail spur. Follow this spur westward a few hundred feet to the opening of Big Painted Cave. The cave is actually a lava tube, like most of the caves in the monument, that has collapsed. The collapsed portion of the tube provides an opening. We know that Native Americans used this cave long ago because of the faint paintings around the entrance to the cave. (A flashlight will help you find these pictographs. A hard hat is also recommended for cave exploration.)
Once you've examined the cave return to the main trail and continue a short distance westward to Symbol Bridge. This bridge was created as a lava tube. Much of it collapsed after cooling to create the bridge formation. As you walk beneath the bridge you'll see evidence of Native American use of the site. Touching the paintings can damage them so please photograph and view them, but don't touch them. Park officials believe this site was used for ceremonies. An interpretive panel at the site further describes the interpreted use of this site.
Directions: From Lava Beds Visitor Center, Travel almost 2 miles northward to Skull Cave Road and turn right. Follow Skull Cave Road 1.2 miles eastward to the trailhead.
Elevation: 4,600 feet
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Lava Beds National Monument, California
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