This is an archived article that was published on in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I've taken my kid on a lot of dud hikes.

Well, it's not that the hikes are duds. Among the hikes that have left my 4-year-old uninspired: Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Dog Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Riverside Walk in Zion, Cecret Lake at Alta, the Rainbow Point footpath at Bryce, and any number of other world-class scenic walks.

But to my daughter, Saskia, they were duds. Scenery is basically lost on her. Walking from point A to point B brings no special sense of accomplishment. If there are no rocks to climb on or water to play in or tunnels or caves to explore, she'd just as soon play an actual game in the parking lot.

This made the Meadow Lava Tubes in central Utah near Fillmore a perfect hike for her.

To be clear, the Lava Tubes are fun at any age. But they are particularly exciting for children who may need a bit more engagement than just a path.

The "tubes" are a series of short but wide cavelike tunnels formed by lava that flowed under a hardened surface long ago, on what now is Tabernacle Hill, about 7 miles west of Meadow in Millard County. Parts of the tubes have smooth, rounded walls, like the famed lava tubes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. But some of them have partly collapsed — and the mounds of boulders on the floors make the tubes really fun to climb through.

As we picked our way down into the first tube, Saskia became intently focused on climbing. For the first time on any hike, she insisted on picking the way herself rather than just going along with my route. Her pace quickened each time a new tunnel appeared. She genuinely wanted to see what was around every corner. As she crept over each boulder, she focused on the next one, planning how her feet and hands might grip their way over the igneous rock. She was unfazed in the darkness of the longest tube, even when my flashlight pooped out and we had to rely on camera flashes to find our way through. She didn't ask for snacks or praise. She didn't complain.

She didn't stop once to re-enact scenes from "Frozen."

I caught up with her to find her sweating and breathing hard. The girl was working. She also was bleeding from a little scrape on her leg after a fall from one of the scratchy rocks. Nothing big, but usually she'd notice that sort of thing.

We emerged from the final tube after about a mile of exploring, into an open corridor lined with tall walls of rock. I could see that Saskia was running out of steam.

"Is there a way to climb out here?" I mumbled to myself.

Immediately, Saskia marched over to the wall and scaled about 10 feet without my guidance or help.

As she crawled over the ledge and flopped onto the gravel at the surface of Tabernacle Hill, she gasped: "We tried our best; we did everything we could."


For information on visiting the Meadow Lava Tubes, see this Hike of the Week.

Twitter: @erinalberty