The United States is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and with good reason. It features a wide variety of activities and attractions, including natural wonders that feature fantastic views. Sights such as Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Old Faithful bring in thousands, if not millions, of tourists annually—visitors who want to see these sceneries with their own eyes. However, did you know that the country’s natural beauty is not limited to what can be seen on the surface? There are a number of caves in the USA that have their own unique attractions just waiting to be explored by intrepid adventurers willing to brave the darkness and the tight spaces. If you want to be part of their number, check out this list of caving adventures in the United States and take that first step to your underground adventure.
1. Luray Caverns, VA
Originally called Luray Cave, Luray Caverns is a good entry point if you’re interested in trying out caving. The well-managed and maintained caverns have step-free access, making it easier for visitors to explore their depths. The site is famous for Great Stalacpipe Organ, which, as the name suggests, produces bell-like tones when tapped. The tour is about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long and runs for approximately an hour. Tickets already include entry to other attractions, specifically Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum, and Toy Town Junction. Discounts are offered for groups made of 20 or more individuals, but reservations have to be made 14 days in advance.
Address: 970 US Highway 211 W, Luray, VA
Website: Luray Caverns
Opening hours: 9am - 4pm (daily)
Price: 0 - 28 USD
2. Caves in Wind Cave National Park, SD
Wind Cave National Park is the first cave in the world to be recognized as a national park. It is considered as the densest cave system across the globe, as well as one of the longest. The caves can only be explored with a designated ranger as a guide. There are different tours offered to groups, the packages differing in terms of the difficulty level, so be sure to choose the option that best suits your skill, experience, and fitness level, but each will require climbing up and down stairs and doing some bending and stooping.
Wind Cave National Park
Address: Beaver Creek, Wind Cave National Park, SD
Website: Wind Cave National Park
Price: 0 - 10 USD
3. Kartchner Caverns, AZ
Arizona takes pride in the unique features of Kartchner Caverns, which include Kubla Khan, the tallest and biggest column in the state; the first reported occurrence of turnip shields and birdsnest needle quartz formations; and the world’s longest soda-straw stalactites. There are two main tours being currently offered there—one to Big Room, which is only accessible during summer, and another to Throne Room. Tours are also offered using the American Sign Language. There’s a campsite in the park, and there are hiking trails you can explore in the area.
Address: 2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ
Website: Kartchner Caverns
Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)
Price: Starts from 5 - 23 USD
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4. Carlsbad Caverns, NM
Carlsbad Caverns is one of the 3 caves open to public tours out of the 119 caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park—each of which was formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone. Visitors have two options to get to the cave—either by taking the elevator from the visitor center or hiking. Regardless of which option guests take to enter, they will be rewarded with views of Big Room, the fifth-biggest cave chamber in North America, estimated to be 1,220 m (4,000 feet) long and 78 m (255 feet) high. Please do note that children under four years of age are not allowed on any of the tours.
Address: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
Website: Carlsbad Caverns
Opening hours: September 3, 2019 - May 22, 2020: 8am - 5pm (daily); May 23, 2020 - September 7, 2020: 8am - 7pm (daily)
Price: From 15 USD
5. DeSoto Caverns, AL
Dubbed as the “first cave of the United States,” DeSoto Caverns has a rich history, having once been the residence of Native Americans in days gone past and even serving as a site where illegal moonshine was made during the Prohibition era. Today, it has been transformed into a handicap-accessible tourist attraction and even features a laser, light, sound, and water show in its cavern tour. Travelers can also explore the different attractions in the area, which include gem panning, archery, and a maze.
Address: 5181 Desoto Caverns Pkwy, Childersburg, AL
Website: DeSoto Caverns
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 4:30pm; Sun: 1pm - 4:30pm (closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving Day)
Price: 19.99 - 24.99 USD
6. Makauwahi Cave Reserve, HI
Hawaii might be best-known for its beaches, but what many don’t know is that it offers a fantastic caving experience to visitors as well. Makauwahi Cave Reserve features limestone caves and sinkholes, some of which were formed over 10,000 years ago, and is considered as the richest fossil site across the state. Entry to the main cave, which doubles as a museum of sorts, is via a sinkhole.
Makauwahi Cave Reserve
Address: 1571-4 Poipu Rd, Koloa, HI
Website: Makauwahi Cave Reserve
Opening hours: 10am - 4pm (daily)
7. Mammoth Caves, KY
Recorded as the longest cave system in the world, Mammoth Caves is recognized as both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. It features a rich history, with archaeologists recovering artifacts such as gourd bowls, woven cloth, pottery, and mussel shells in the area and finding petroglyphs etched on the walls. Besides caving, visitors can enjoy other activities in the park such as hiking, horseback riding, cycling, fishing, canoeing, and camping.
Address: One Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY
Website: Mammoth Caves
Opening hours: 8am - 6:30pm (daily)
Price: 3 - 6 USD
8. Jewel Cave, SD
Wind Cave is not the only cave that South Dakota boasts. Another attraction you may want to explore is Jewel Cave—so called because large sections of the cave are covered by spar crystals and other kinds of colorful rocks and crystals. It is currently recorded to be the third-longest cave system in the world. Tour packages, which differ in terms of difficulty level, are offered for visitors to choose from. A minimum of two visitors is required per tour.
Address: Jewel Cave National Monument, 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD
Website: Jewel Cave
Opening hours: Varies
Price: 8 - 12 USD
9. Meramec Caverns, MO
Once upon a time, Meramec Caverns served as a shelter for Native Americans, and then later as a source of saltpeter during Civil War. Today, it is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Missouri. Among the main sights in the cave system is Wine Room—so called because of the grapelike clusters on it—and Hollywood Room, dubbed because the section served as a shooting location of the Tom Sawyer film, which was made in 1973. Light shows are held for guests during the tour.
Address: 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO
Website: Meramec Caverns
Opening hours: Jan - Feb & Nov - Dec: 9am - 4pm (daily); Mar & Oct: 9am - 5pm (daily); Apr: 9am - 6pm (daily); May - Jun: 9am - 7pm (daily); Jul - Labor Day: 8:30am - 7:30pm (daily); Sep: 9am - 6pm (daily)
Price: 0 - 22 USD
10. Blanchard Springs Caverns, AR
Blanchard Springs Caverns, which is the second-longest cave in the state, is considered as a living cave because it still continues to grow and expand. Tour packages, which vary according to the level of difficulty, are offered. If you want to amp up your adventure, you can take the Wild Cave Tour, which will take you to the underdeveloped and relatively unexplored parts of the cave. There’s a campsite in the park in case you want to spend a night in the area. Hiking, cycling, fishing, and swimming are some of the other activities you can do while here.
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Address: 704 Blanchard Springs Rd, Fifty-Six, AR
Website: Blanchard Springs Caverns
Opening hours: Wed - Sun: 9:30am - 6pm (closed on Mon & Tue)
Price: 1 - 13 USD
Explore a whole new underground world
The United States has several attractions to offer its visitors, some of which may be considered too mainstream by frequent travelers who wish to stray off the beaten tourist path. If you’re tired of the usual destinations and want to go down the road less traveled, consider exploring the caves of the country and discover for yourself that the USA has more to offer than what is immediately visible to the eye.
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