Be sure you have enough time to visit Lenore Lake Caves. Despite the relatively short mileage listed here, it's possible to spend the better part of a day exploring the caves and the coulee country surrounding Lenore Lake. With 12,000 years of history, this landscape has plenty to discover. But the trail described below can serve as a nice leg stretcher for anyone driving by, staying in nearby Dry Falls State Park, or fishing one of the many large lakes here.
The caves themselves are shallow, created during the Great Missoula flood as water pulled chunks of basalt from the walls of the coulee. After the waters retreated and the caves had been created, early native people used these areas as shelters. The area is still used by Native Americans as a sacred area and a gathering ground. Hikers share this area as well, and can explore this geologically fascinating place, whether it’s just for a leg-stretch or an all day visit.
From the parking lot, head up a staircase carved into the rock, complete with handrail! The trail becomes more trail-like at the top of the staircase, where you are faced with a decision. Head left (north) or right (south)? The most developed and well-maintained trails are to your right.
The trail to the left seems welcoming, but quickly becomes overgrown and hard, even potentially dangerous to follow. So if you’re looking for a more traditional hike, or if you’ve got little ones, stick to the right.
Proceed south. Along the length of this trail, you’ll pass seven caves of various sizes. These are not deep caves—for most of them a headlight would be unnecessary—but they are relatively large, and provide nice photo opportunities as well as the possibility to guess how they may once have been used. Have little ones make up stories about who once lived here.
The trail ends at a deep pit in the ground, where a trail leads to the largest cave, which beckons as a shaded place to rest and enjoy lunch before heading back the way you came.
WTA Pro Tip: There is lots of wildlife to enjoy here. Birds of prey soar and butterflies flit, while reptiles soak in the sun. Speaking of which, be on the lookout for rattlesnakes here. If you see one, don’t touch or poke it with sticks. Give it a wide berth to continue your hike, and keep an eye out for it on the way back.
Lenore Lake Caves
- 1.5 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 200 feet
- Highest Point
- 1,300 feet
Hiking Lenore Lake Caves
Lenore Lake Caves
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.5174, -119.4938 Open in Google Maps