California Cavern (Angels Camp, CA)
California might be best known for tall redwood trees, canyons, and deserts, but the caves are truly something to see. California Cavern is located in Angels Camp, CA, and is part of the longest cavern system in the United States. The California Cavern, originally called Mammoth Cave, is a gem with incredible history. Sierra Club founder John Muir even wrote about its grandeur in one of his books, “Mountains of California.” There is truly something for everyone here. California Cavern offers different types of walking tours and expeditions, for all skill sets. There is a forty-five minute walking tour, where visitors can see the incredible crystalline cave formations. There’s plenty of stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, and flowstones to be seen. They also offer a two hour tour called the Mammoth Cave Expedition, and a four hour tour called the Middle Earth Expedition. These expeditions are guided group tours of the cave system. The Mammoth Cave Expedition is a great introduction to the sport of caving, and the Middle Earth Expedition is suggested for more experienced adventurers. California Cavern even has the skeleton of an ancient cave bear on display!
Natural Stone Bridge and Caves (Pottersville, NY)
Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is truly one of the highlights of the Adirondacks. While most people look towards the 46 high peaks of the park, look downwards into the incredible caves below! The stunning Trout Brook runs through the park, and Natural Stone Bridge and Caves boasts the largest marble cave entrance in the eastern USA. Natural Stone Bridge and Caves was originally called Ponte de Dios by explorers, and was mentioned in a publication of Morse’s Geography back in 1790. There are above ground and cave hikes, and visitors can also snowshoe here. At Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, visitors can see cave features such as waterfalls, potholes, and grottos. I’ve personally visited this site before, and it is even more stunning in real life. I highly recommend visiting this place. Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is the only public cave in the Adirondacks!
Cathedral Caverns (Woodville, AL)
Cathedral Caverns is a breath-taking state park located within Kennamer Cove, Alabama. Cathedral Caverns gets its name from the massive cave entrance. Originally called Bat Cave, Cathedral Caverns opened up to tourists in the 1950s, and became a state park in 2000. Cathedral Caverns is known for its flowstone waterfall and stalagmite forest. It is home to “Goliath” a massive stalagmite that is 45 feet tall, and 243 feet in circumference, making it one of the largest stalagmites in the world. There is also an “improbable” stalagmite located within Cathedral Caverns. This stalagmite is only 3 inches wide, yet bends at a fort five degree angle, and is 25 feet tall. A cave tour is available at Cathedral Caverns, and above ground there are multiple hiking trails crisscrossing the park’s 493 acres. The cave trail is 1.3 miles, and lasts for about 75 to 90 minutes. The cave maintains a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round, making the cave exploration a comfortable one. Cathedral Caverns even has a touch of Hollywood hiding within its limestone walls: in 1983 the film Secrets of the Phantom Caverns was filmed here, as well as the 1995 film Tom and Huck. Another interesting fact about Cathedral Caverns is that archeologists have been able to determine that people lived in this cave from as early as 7000 BCE!
Caverns of Sonora (Sonora, TX)
The Caverns of Sonora are another spectacular sight to see. Halfway between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park lies the Caverns of Sonora, one of the most beautiful show caves in the world. The caverns were formed two million years ago from natural gases rising through the limestone. The cave was discovered in 1955 on the land of the Mayfield Family, when a dog chased a racoon into one of the cave openings. In 1960, the cave was opened to the public. The calcite crystal formations in this cave are both beautiful and bizarre, and you truly cannot find another cave like this one. 95 percent of the formations in this cave are still “growing.” As a result of their natural beauty and stunning formation, the Caverns of Sonora are recognized as a National Natural Landmark. There are tours that leave regularly, and they also offer a Discovery Challenge Adventure Tour. This includes a four hour hike, ending with you repelling down 43 feet into the “Devil’s Pit.” The site also offers camping, orienteering, and rope techniques.
Linville Caverns (Marion, NC)
The Linville Caverns are small compared to other show caves, but they are no less wonderful to experience. The Linville Caverns are located at the base of Humpback Mountain (2500 feet below it, to be exact), and are part of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. Guided tours are offered at Linville Caverns, and last for 30 to 40 minutes. Tours are limited to 14 people at a time, and are first come first served. Inside the limestone cave there are many stunning stalagmite and stalactite formations to see. The caverns are also home to an underground stream, called the “Bottomless Pool” because of its depth of 250 feet. There are rock formations in the cavern that look like bowling pins, a party, a polar bear, and a mother-in-law! The caverns were discovered in the 1822 by local fishermen, and was opened to the public during the 1930s. The Linville Caverns also have a very interesting history. During the Civil War, the caverns were used as a hideout for deserters in the Army. In the fall and winter, the caverns are home to tricolored bats and little brown bats! The bats use the caverns as a spot for their hibernation.