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Hat Creek Flow

Geologic Feature
A lava dome with a spatter tube at the Spattercone Nature Trail in Hat Creek, California – by C. Forster

ADA Accessibility Notes

The Spattercone Nature Trail has a large portion that is wheelchair accessible.

The Subway Cave is not wheelchair accessible.

The Hat Creek Flow is found in the Lassen National Forest of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Bywayregion. It is located near the town of Old Station in Shasta County. The name “Hat Creek” came about when one of the surveyors of the Nobles Emigrant Trail dropped his very expensive hat in the creek in 1852. The Hat Creek Flow refers to the lava that was discharged in a series of north-south fissures about 20,000 years ago. This river of lava located near the town of Old Station, crawled northward 16 miles, covering the floor of Hat Creek Valley. While the top crust cooled and hardened, rivers of red-hot lava insulated by newly formed rock above, continued to flow. Eventually, the lava drained away, leaving hundreds of tube-like caves.

There are two points of interest that highlight the Hat Creek Lava Flow - The Spattercone Nature Trail and the Subway Cave. The Nature Trail travels along the origins of the Hat Creek Flow and highlights many spatter cones and other geologic features on its 1.5 mile loop tour. Spatter cones are formed along linear fractures during eruptions with high magma. Hot gases tear liquefied rock into peculiar and anomalous shapes that land around the vent of the volcano. At the entrance of the Nature Trail, you will find picnic tables, toilets, drinking water, and plenty of parking. The trail is mainly exposed so please bring plenty of water. This Nature Trail can be accessed approximately 1.5 miles south of the Hwy 89/44 junction in Old Station.

The entrance to the Subway Cave was formed by a partial collapse of the cave’s roof many years ago. This cave is the largest accessible tube in the flow. The Subway Cave Trailhead is located 1/4 mile north of the Hwy 89/44 junction. The community of Old Station is located 1/2 mile south of the trailhead. In addition to restrooms and water, picnic tables are available for use making this trail an excellent place to stop for a picnic lunch.

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets on leashes are allowed on the Spattercone Nature Trail. At Subway Cave, pets are only allowed on the short trail, but not within the cave itself.

Recreational Opportunities

The Spattercone Nature Trail is an easy 1.5 mile loop hike.

The Subway Cave Trail is 1/3 of a mile in length, which includes the walk to the cave and within it. Free guided tours are offered each weekend at the Subway Cave from mid-June to Labor Day.


Seasons Accessible

The Spattercone Nature Trail is open April through November.

The Subway Cave can be accessed in the summer, May through October. Contact the Hat Creek Ranger District at (530) 336-5521 or stop by the Old Station Information Center (located near Subway Cave) which is open April through December. Hours vary by season.


Trails are Free!

Nearby Places