Tabernacle Crater & Meadow Hot Springs

Tabernacle Crater is one of many spots I found through scanning satellite maps. I was looking for places to explore not far off I-15.  I did subsequent research on it, learning of its lava craters and tubes in the process.  Later on I found there to be some nearby hot pots that were open to the public as well.  This is an area that has been on my radar for a couple of years now.  I initially wanted to take the family camping in the area but some other things came up and we ended up just making it a day trip instead.

Saturday - September 10, 2016

After waking up and having breakfast at our home, we loaded up and headed down I-15 for an hour or so until we got to the small farming town of Meadow just south of Fillmore.  There we departed the freeway and headed out west until finally arriving at a point between Tabernacle Hill and Tabernacle Crater we didn't dare take our minivan beyond.  It happened to be at the edge of where we wanted to explore.

Tabernacle Crater (and Tabernacle Hill) sits on BLM land not far west from the rural towns of Fillmore and Meadow, Utah.  It is the site of ancient lava flows and craters, with one central large crater, its namesake.  There is also a network of some lava tubes, cave-like channels where ancient lava once flowed beneath a hardened lava crust leaving hollow conduits behind.

We got out, lathered on some sunscreen, and sought out a way down the lava fields leading into the nearest crater we could find hoping to find at least one of the lava tubes.

A crater within the crater of Tabnernacle Hill (tube in shadow)

With little children in tow, it got a bit tricky finding our way down, especially with the extremely abrasive and jagged lava rocks all over.  Any slip or trip almost certainly would have resulted with some bad "road rash".  We managed to find a safe enough passage down and in short order we were wandering through the small little valley, er canyon, er crater.  We passed by an obvious cave like portal we would surely come back to explore, but wanted to see if there was anything else accessible further on.

The "little valley, er canyon, er crater"

Down in the little valley (tube behind in shadow)

We hiked down as far as it appeared to go, which wasn't far.  I went up a boulder field up the other end to scout out little further but nothing looked too promising.  It turns out there really was a big tube further on that just wasn't visible from where I was.  I came back down and we backtracked the other way and went on up to the tube we had seen.

Entering into the tube

Inside the tube

Looking back toward the entrance

We quickly came to a point where the roof gave way to a large opening, another crater as it were, followed by another cave or tube at the other side that went fairly far back as far as we could tell.  We went into it a little bit and I went back a little further with my headlamp, but it was much more rugged navigating through it and there was no sign of light at the other end.

Exploring around where the roof opened up (second tube at left)

Looking back out from within second tube (my wife, Jessica, in silhouette)

My three daughters huddle up in a small alcove

Lennox posing inside of tube

Looking up through the opening in the roof

Nearing the entrance turned exit

Anytime there is anything that resembles a cave, the kids get excited.  And who can blame them?  So do I.

Given how many rocks and boulders littered the floors, how porous the walls and ceilings were and the vast grid of fractures across it all, I wondered how safe these tubes would be in the winter and early spring when snowmelt and another moisture no doubt seeps through from the surface of the earth above, then freezes, and then thaws. How often is it enough to wedge and release another rock or bigger boulder from above?  I grew thankful it was late summer.  Depending on conditions and time of day, these tubes could be a much riskier place to explore in the winter and spring.

Family Photo

Climbing up and out


After making our way back up to the car we began to drive back out when I noticed another cavity in the earth off the side of the road not far from where we had parked.  I pulled over and rather than getting the whole family back out, I jumped down in to check it out and grab a few more photos.  It lead into another considerable tube lined with a series of smaller cavities along its roof.

Inside another tube

The series of holes in the roof create interesting effects with the light.

Looking back out through where I entered

A couple of roof cavities

Another hole in the roof

After a few minutes I returned back to up to the car where we drove on back and over to the nearby Meadow Hot Springs, which are actually hot pots (pools) rather than a flowing spring.  It consists of 3 different geo-thermally warmed pools, all at various temperatures, all within approximately a quarter mile of each other.  They actually lie within private property but the owners have been gracious enough to make them open and accessible to the public with the request that everyone keeps them clean, keeps their clothes on, and doesn't abuse them.

While there are definitely stories of people encountering some parties and other groups of people engaging in some illicit and inappropriate activities and so on and no doubt have left some trash behind in their wake, the owners have continued to leave it open at the time of this writing.  A majority of the visitors are no doubt respectful of the private property and those also seeking to enjoy the pools and hopefully that continues to be the case.  Some will even clean up others trash in hopes it helps to keep it clean in favor of it remaining open to the public.  This is a good time to remind anyone else who visits to do the same.  It's an unfortunate reality that a small but impactful minority will inevitably continue to trash the place from time to time, relying on others to clean up after them.

Over the years, with the advent of social media, its obvious this place, like so many other beautiful settings, has exploded in popularity.  In other words, if you show up on a weekend, especially from spring through fall, don't expect much solitude.  For a place that seems so remote and is good drive away from any urban population, it sure gets a lot of visitors.  Of the 3 pools, one of them is particularly popular and is often packed like sardines with people, and it was no different when we showed up, being a Saturday and all.  It is the warmest (90-95 degrees) and deepest (about 30 feet) of the pools, but also the smallest in surface area, if not close to it.

With so many swarming it, we moved on to the next one over.  It had the shape of a figure-8.  When we arrived, surprisingly, there was only one other couple with their dog who were just passing through on their way back to Nevada.  Since they had to get back on the road, we got to enjoy it all alone for the next little while.  It worked out well because the water temperature was much more mild, with one end being very shallow and perfect for the kids.  In fact, the shallow end was only lukewarm.  The only downside was that it had a bunch of algae growing on that end resulting in a bunch of gunk around the edges.  The kids weren't too bothered by it though.

Time to get wet

Chilling out

Opposite from the shallow end, was a deeper end about (16-18 feet) that was also warmer than the shallow side (I'm guessing close to 80 degrees).  There was a nice rocky rim around the edge that made for a great platform to dive and jump from.  Of course, I had to have my fun.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of that end on this trip down, but it can be seen in the video at the end of this post.

After some time, we moved on to the last of the pools.  It was by far the largest of all the pools in surface area and supposedly the shallowest.  I'm guessing the maximum depth is about 10-12 feet. Also unique to it was a small wooden deck that reached over the edge at one side.  The water here was a bit cooler than the other pools too.  We each took turns sitting down and dipping our feet down into the water.

The larger pool

Soaking the feet

A look into the pool from the deck

A look into the pool from the deck

An abundance of small freshwater tropical fish also inhabit this pool.

Tropical fish

We found that within seconds, many of the fish would come and greet your feet by giving them a good cleaning and a good tickle in the process.

Fish + feet = clean feet

It was great day trip to spend with the family.  

I should make one other note...In older pictures, there were some signs obviously posted along the main road and lot for the area that stated rules set forth by the property owners and it had said no dogs.  I did not see any such sign up when were were there nor realized it had specifically said no dogs until after seeing older photos of it after our visit.  It may be that some malicious visitors removed it or perhaps the owners removed it themselves for whatever reason.  At any rate, just know that at least at one point, dogs were not supposed to be running around there, probably because of the messes they can leave that some of their owners aren't willing to clean up.  So you assume whatever risks may be associated with having your dog out and on the loose should you do so when visiting and the owners happen to show up.  Had I known this when we were there, we would have kept our dog back in the car, with water, shade, and proper ventilation.


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