The Arnold Ice Cave Loop is a fun trail in the Deschutes National Forest, just south of Bend, Oregon. The loop takes you to Arnold Ice Cave and Charcoal Cave, past interesting lava outcroppings, through pretty ponderosa forest, and across an open grassland that was a pine forest before the 1996 Skeleton Fire. On a clear day in spring and early summer, the views of the snow-capped Cascades are excellent. Gray trailblazer diamonds on the trees mark the route.
Distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation: 4,200-4,800 feet
The loop begins at the Boyd Cave parking area and follows a connector trail to the Arnold Ice Cave Trail #3963, which will take you east to Arnold Ice Cave, Charcoal Cave, and several other caves formed when the roofs of underground lava tubes collapsed. Early Bend-area settlers used to harvest ice from the depths of Arnold Ice Cave, which has ice in it year-round.
From there, take the 61/63 Tie Trail to the Coyote Trail #3962, turn right, and follow it back to Boyd Cave.
You can camp at Swamp Wells Horse Camp, located about 8 miles south, on Road 1816. The Arnold Ice Cave Trail and the Coyote Trail both run all the way to the horse camp. The horse camp has a toilet and five campsites with corrals, but you’ll have to bring your own water.
The Boyd Cave parking area is located south of Bend, Oregon, off China Hat Road.
You’ll find more information about this trail in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.