Symbol Bridge Trail

Lava Beds National Monument
Located 15.4 miles from Tulelake, California (CA)
4 Stars
1,972 Steps 1  (0.9 mi)

A short drive from the visitor center to Skull Cave leads to the Symbol Bridge trailhead. The trail is fairly easy and level but has loose rocky surfaces in many areas. The trail follows the ridge of a collapsed lava tube to the Big Painted Cave; inside the cave is a thick layer of ice on the floor; the temperatures once in the cave are cool which makes for a nice break from the summer heat. A short walk from the opening of the Big Painted Cave leads to Symbol Bridge; this cave has several unique and interesting petroglyphs that are easy to locate. The hike down into both of the caves is not for those who are unsteady on their feet. Closed-toe hiking boots and caving gear should be worn if you want to thoroughly explore the caves. The Missing Link trailhead is located directly opposite the Symbol Bridge trailhead.

Symbol Bridge TrailPictographsSymbol Bridge

Before entering the caves within Lava Beds National Monument, a free screening pass for the deadly bat disease White-Nose Syndrome must first be obtained from the Visitor Center or Fee Booth.


The Symbol Bridge Trail has a maximum elevation of 4,701 ft (1,433 m), a minimum elevation of 4,564 ft (1,391 m), and an elevation range of 137 ft (42 m).


[ A to B ] or [ B to A ]
Steps 1Length 2Min Ele 3Max Ele 4
1,9720.9 mi4,564 ft4,701 ft
[ A to B ]
Time 5Floors 6Gain 7Loss 8
24 min10.7128 ft0 ft
[ B to A ]
22 min0.00 ft128 ft

What is the length of the Symbol Bridge Trail?

The length of the trail is 0.9 mi (1.5 km) or 1,972 steps.

How long does it take to hike the Symbol Bridge Trail?

A person in good physical health can hike the trail in 24 min in the [ A to B ] direction, and in 22 min in the [ B to A ] direction.


The following chart shows the total calories that you may expend on the trail while hiking in the [ A to B ] and [ B to A ] direction at a typical speed and is based on gross weight (which includes anything carried), the topography, trail length and trail conditions.

Topo Maps

Download the free Symbol Bridge Trail topo map and the adjoining quads to plan your hike. These are full-sheet, 7.5 Minute (1:24,000 scale) Lava Beds National Monument topographic maps. Do you want full-sheet outdoor recreation JPEG Topo Maps?

Adjoining 7.5' Quadrangle Legend

  1. Northwest Topo Map: Mount Dome, CA
  2. North Topo Map: Captain Jacks Stronghold, CA
  3. Northeast Topo Map: The Panhandle, CA
  4. West Topo Map: Bonita Butte, CA
  5. Topo Map: Schonchin Butte, CA
  6. East Topo Map: Caldwell Butte, CA
  7. Southwest Topo Map: Little Glass Mountain, CA
  8. South Topo Map: Medicine Lake, CA
  9. Southeast Topo Map: West of Kephart, CA

Is there a Symbol Bridge trail map?

Yes, and it's free! The Symbol Bridge Trail is located on the Schonchin Butte topo map. Use the adjoining quadrangle legend to download the map.



  1. Steps is a unit of distance equal to the sum of stride lengths that vary with the terrain.
  2. Length is the distance of the trail between the two trailheads, measured on the trail.
  3. Min Ele is the minimum elevation on the trail.
  4. Max Ele is the maximum elevation on the trail.
  5. Time is the typical total time required to hike the trail.
  6. Floors is the gain divided by twelve, the height of one floor.
  7. Gain (cumulative elevation gain) is the sum of every gain in elevation.
  8. Loss (cumulative elevation loss) is the sum of every loss in elevation.