Natural Entrance Lehman Caves Great Basin National Park

My first impression standing outside Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park was that I wasn’t sure that I was going to find it all that exciting. Part of this was due to deciding to take a hike up to the natural entrance of the cave before the cave tour began. Instead of the lushness at the entrance of Oregon Caves National Monument or the beautiful hike down to the spider web gate entrance at Crystal Cave at Sequoia National Park, there was simply a small opening surrounded by a cage of bars.

The natural entrance at Lehman Caves Great Basin National Park

Luckily, there was an information sign that explained why the natural entrance looks the way it does:

It was at this spot in about 1885 that Ab Lehman first entered the cave. From then until 1940, when the present tunnel was constructed, this natural entrance was used by people visiting the cave.

In the early 1900s, visitors descended into the cave through a wooden shed covering the natural entrance. In 1939, the national Park Service blasted a tunnel into the hillside behind the visitor center, providing easier access. The natural opening was closed or severely restricted in the ensuing years, disrupting airflow and limiting bat access. Bat use of Lehman Caves declined. In 1997, the bat-compatible gate was installed to correct these problems

Why the gate design? When bats leave the cave, they spiral upward, exiting through gaps in the horizontal bars. The gate extends upward allowing bats to gain speed and altitude. This allows them to escape nearby predators.

Why do bats use caves? Bats need hibernation sites that fall within a narrow temperature and humidity range. Lehman Caves remains close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)and 90% humidity year round. During the summer, bats establish nursery colonies in caves, where they birth their young. Bats roost in the dark of the caves during daylight, exiting them at night to feed on insects.

Once I entered Lehman Caves, any initial reservations I had quickly disappeared with the many wonderful cave formations found inside…

Stanton’s Cave Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

With the South Canyon hike thwarted, I decided to try and make my way to Stanton’s cave in Grand Canyon national Park. To make it to Stanton’s cave from our camping area was a short hike downriver toward Vasey’s Paradise after climbing up a rock ridge above the beach. A good pair of hiking shoes is definitely recommended if you want to attempt this hike.

Stanton’s cave is quite large and many artifacts were discovered in it, but it is no longer possible to access the cave as there have been large steel bars placed across its entrance to protect the endangered Townsend’s big-eared bats that live and roost there (This is a good resource if you are looking for more information on the history of Stanton’s cave and bats, and preservation efforts that have taken place over the years). While the cave does first appear to be a former mine and the original signing describes it as such, it’s actually a natural cave.

hiking to entrance of Stanton's Cave

view of Stanton's cave through restricting bars

Just inside the bars is a sign explaining why the cave is blocked:

bat sign found in Stanton's Cave

Protected Habitat

This abandoned mine cave has been closed for your safety and to protect bat habitat.

Bats use mines for day roosting, rearing their young during summer, hibernating during winter, gathering for social activities such as courtship and mating, and for crucial rest stops during nightly feeding or spring and fall migrations.

Bats are among the world’s most beneficial but vulnerable mammals. Townsend Big-Eared Bat

The hike to Stanton’s cave is about half a mile (1 mile round trip) from the South Canyon camping beach. It does require some rock scrambling to get up to the ridge above the beach. A path is well worn to the cave, but you do need to be cautious while walking it as there are quite a few loose rocks. Simple head in the direction of Vasey’s Paradise. You may also spot big horn sheep while hiking to the cave (I did).