I’m always looking for unique and interesting things to do with our troop. Not long ago, someone told me there were “lava tubes” near Meadow, Utah. Having spent 16 years in the Pacific Northwest, I know volcanic mountains and their adjacent foothills are awesome places to explore. So our scout outing this month was a trip to see for ourselves.
Meadow, Utah is just past Fillmore, about 2 hours south of the Salt Lake valley. The directions are pretty straightforward until you get off the freeway… that’s when they get somewhat vague. Most of the descriptions we found on the web only called out old wooden signs and rough, unmarked roads to navigate by. I hope my Google Earth file below can help clarify this area for you and your trip planning.
There are three hot springs within a few hundred feet of each other. All are relatively clean but with some differences in temperature. The warmest and most popular pool is, of course, closest to the parking area (see note 1 below). However, I thought the best hot pot was the one furthest away. It’s a comfortable temperature and large enough to look like a real swimming pool with a wading area on one end that gradually gets deep on the other. When you visit this site, plan to have company. …and plan for that company to be interesting or even inappropriate depending on the time of day (or night) you are there.
The lava tubes we climbed through are on the north end of Tabernacle Hill. As you approach this hill, you will see where others have parked and even camped near the base. From there, look for a section of cave on the east side of the road and another tube-like passage on the west side that leads to the crater. These “tubes” aren’t very long or deep under the ground, but certainly remind you of a prehistoric period where lava once flowed (see note 2 below). When you see an aerial view of Tabernacle Hill from Google Earth, it looks like it was once part of a much larger volcano that erupted to form the characteristics of this landscape. I would guess this hill is the east flank of what remains of an ancient volcanic dome.
Don’t leave this geological formation without wandering into Tabernacle Crater. In the center of this crater (shown below), the uneven ground made it easy to picture a boiling earth that is now frozen in time. The whole area looks like molten rock with piles of upheaval everywhere. It’s not hard to imagine dinosaurs roaming this land at one time.
In lieu of writing directions that that won’t be any more clear than what we found online, here’s a Google Earth file with routes and waypoints that should help you navigate to this hidden Utah treasure.
1) The property where these hot springs are gurgling from is private land. Interesting destinations like this are easily closed due to abuse and misuse – please act accordingly!
2) You may find other websites mention the possibility of lava tubes that run for miles. If that’s true, we didn’t find them on this trip. I don’t know how far you’d have to search or if they have already collapsed in on themselves. Either way, I wouldn’t expect lava tubes in Utah to be anything like what you’d find in Washington State. I’ve been through Ape Cave at the foot of Mount St. Helens and know about Dead Horse Cave near Mt. Adams (two of the longest lava tubes in the continental US). Those are amazing lava tube experiences!
3) While passing through Fillmore, it might be worth a stop to check out Utah’s first capital! The original Statehouse building stands today as the oldest existing governmental building in the state and is maintained by the State of Utah as a historic site and museum.
4) Consider these suggestions when camping in the area with scouts.