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Length: .3 Miles from Parking Lot to Pluto’s Cave, Cave is 1,200′ Long
Trailhead(s): Pluto’s Cave Parking
Elevation Gain: 96′
Trail Type: Point to Point
Permit Required? No
Considerations: Bring headlamp or flashlight; Cave is cold, bring light jacket; wear sturdy shoes.
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Visiting Pluto’s Cave near Mt Shasta, California, is an adventure filled hike that is fun for adults and children alike. Although Pluto’s Cave is definitely a family friendly hike, that doesn’t mean big kids (aka grown-ups) won’t have a blast here too, particularly if you have never visited a lava tube cave. In fact, I am a cave diving instructor (retired) and have done a fair bit of dry caving as well. Despite having done well over 1,000 entries into cave systems, I still had a huge amount of fun exploring this small, but cool cave. I’m pretty sure you will too.
Getting to Pluto’s Cave
Pluto’s Cave is a 30 minute drive from the town of Mount Shasta. The drive is particularly beautiful as you will have excellent views of the Mount Shasta volcano from a number of different angles.
Be aware that the road from Hwy 97 to Pluto’s Cave is a little rough and tight in some places, but drivable. Just take it slow and you should have no worries.
When you leave the 99-97 Cutoff on 43N30, which leads you to the cave, just follow 43N30 until you reach a very small parking area on the right. Behind the parking area, you will see the small, rocky trail that takes you to Pluto’s Cave.
The trail to Pluto’s Cave is only .3 miles long. It is a pretty hike in a desert landscape. Enjoy it, but keep alert for snakes, as rattlers have been seen in the area.
The entrance to Pluto’s Cave is hard to miss, as it is fairly large and sits in a big depression in the ground. Looking down at the opening from above the depression, you will have an awesome view of Mount Shasta behind the entrance.
The path down to the Pluto’s Cave entrance can be a little hard to find. There is a path, but many people miss it. Just look at the contours of the immediate area and the path down should become obvious.
Exploring Pluto’s Cave
Pluto’s Cave is only 1,200′ in length, but it is a fun 1,200′. You will have plenty of opportunity to navigate rocks and boulders, explore dark places, and experience the beauty of sink holes that let light penetrate from above the cave creating awe inspiring scenes.
Make sure you are prepared when you arrive at Pluto’s Cave. 1,200′ is a very short distance on the surface, but in a cave navigating around boulders, it will surprise you how long covering the extent of the cave will take.
To prepare for Pluto’s Cave, obviously, bring a light. Flashlights are ok, but a headlamp makes moving through the cave much easier (Chris carries the Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp and Mac carries the Petzl ACTIK Headlamp.) Also, wear sturdy, non-slip shoes – climbing on rocks in the dark is not the place for flip-flops! Finally, bring a jacket or sweatshirt. Pluto’s Cave temperature is much colder than the outdoor air temperature, even in summer.
When you are in the Pluto’s Cave, please be careful to minimize your impact. Unlike the outside world, caves do not heal themselves in short order, if at all. If they do (for example, stalagmites in dry caves), it can take thousands of years to repair damage to even minute features.
Beyond this, go and explore Pluto’s Cave. The joy of caves is not only that they are other-worldly environments, but every nook and cranny offers a potential new discovery, particularly for kids. And, speaking of kids, let them have fun and explore, but keep an eye on them to make sure everyone has a safe experience.
When you reach the back of Pluto’s Cave, you will know it. You will reach a breakdown area that looks unpassable. Take this as a good sign it is time to turn around and enjoy hike back to the cave entrance.
Concluding Thoughts about Pluto’s Cave
Pluto’s Cave is a great hike for anyone, particularly those who have never experienced a cave environment and kids. This is a fantastic place for a family outing and your kids will remember the trip for many years. It’s not going to fill a day, but if you are looking for a shorter outventure in the Mt Shasta area, Pluto’s Cave is an excellent choice. OUTventure on!
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Pluto’s Cave Slideshow
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