Lava Beds National Monument has a lot of caves but it also has some above-ground hiking trails that make a nice counter-point to time spent crawling around in the dark. Starting from the Merrill Ice Cave parking lot, the trail to Whitney Butte is basically an easy hike through open country,
with good views of Mount Shasta to the west,
past Whitney Butte – we were dissuaded from climbing it due to an unfortunate juxtaposition of shorts, long grass, and rattlesnakes (a hike up it might have been easy and fun, given colder weather and longer pants) –
to the face of the Black Lava flow.
The face of the flow is around 30-50 feet high and speaks to the bulldozing power of large masses of molten rock in motion. We tried climbing up on it but that was like balancing on large razor blades – not AT ALL forgiving if you miss a foot or hand-hold and slip. A short hike (6 miles round-trip; little elevation gain) but a nice balance for a day otherwise spent underground.