Tap Into Your Inner Explorer at These 16 US Caves

1 / 17
Big Island lava tube cave
©Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority
2 / 17
Rock formations inside the cave at Colossal Cave
©Shutterstock
Colossal Cave: Vail, Arizona

Discover the history, legends and geology of Southern Arizona's Colossal Cave on a 45-minute walking tour, or marvel at the crystals and stalagmites on the mysterious off-route ladder tour. Adventurous explorers can get down-and-dirty on the Wild Cave tour where guides take you through small passageways and obstacles that extend a quarter mile into the cave.

3 / 17
Divers underwater caves diving Ginnie Springs
©Shutterstock
Ginnie Springs: High Springs, Florida

Take your cave adventures underwater at Ginnie Springs. Here, divers can descend into the Ginnie Cavern and Devil's Spring System and enjoy breathtaking views created by reflective limestone.

4 / 17
Outside of Kaumana Caves in Hawaii
©Robert Linsdell/Flickr, Creative Commons
Kaumana Caves State Park: Big Island, Hawaii

Located on The Big Island, Kaumana was formed by lava flow in 1881. Today, visitors can walk down the concrete staircase of the cave's entrance and explore two miles of dark tunnels. Flashlights are a must if you intend to go beyond the cave's entrance.

5 / 17
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
©stevedinger/Instagram.com
Glenwood Caverns: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is home to the largest show cave in the state. The park offers a 40-minute, quarter-mile-long Historic Fairy Cave Tour; a 40-minute, 150-foot deep King's Row Tour showcasing stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws and bacon formations; and a guided two-hour Wild Tour.

6 / 17
Inside Cumberland Caverns
©Eli Christman/Flickr, Creative Commons
Cumberland Caverns: McMinnville, Tennessee

Cumberland Caverns—the second-longest cave in the state—is a national natural landmark. The cave is 32 miles long and displays rock formations and underground waterfalls. Plus, the cave offers overnight adventures and live underground performances.

7 / 17
Inside of Luray Caverns in Virginia
©Shutterstock
Luray Caverns: Luray, Virginia

A journey through Luray Caverns includes tours through rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, massive stone formations and more natural wonders. The cavern is the largest cavern in the Eastern United States and displays clear-water lakes, frozen limestone and towering stone columns.

8 / 17
Cave in Kauai
©Blake Bronstad/Hawaii Tourism Authority
Waikanaloa Cave: Kauai, Hawaii

"Known to many as the 'Blue Room,' Waikanaloa’s dome-shaped grotto was created by thousands of years of ocean waves pounding against the lava’s stone," said Simplicio Paragas, Where Hawaii editor. "At the right time of day, the sun’s reflection in the icy-cold waters of the cave causes for the reflection to beam off rays of blue streaks, creating a bubble of shimmering turquoise. The water collected in Waikanaloa is fed by the tide and springs that seep through the porous lava."

9 / 17
Inside of Shenandoah
©Ilyse Whitney/Flickr, Creative Commons
Shenandoah Caverns: Quicksburg, Virginia

Shenandoah Caverns has been wowing visitors with its diamond cascades, bacon formations and rainbow lakes for more than 90 years. The 56-degree cavern even has elevator service to guide visitors to 17 underground rooms.

10 / 17
Natural Bridge Caverns
©Josh Grenier/Flickr, Creative Commons
Natural Bridge Caverns: San Antonio, Texas

Head 180 feet below ground and listen to guides discuss the history of the Natural Bridge Cavern and its ancient—and still growing—formations. Visitors can embrace their inner-Indiana Jones and explore the cave on the Hidden Passages Tour that uses light and darkness to enhance the experience.

11 / 17
Save tour entrance and exit
©Margaret River/Flickr, Creative Commons
Mammoth Cave National Park: Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

The world's longest known cave is 400 miles long and is just beneath the surface of Park City, Kentucky. Mammoth Cave has several vast chambers and complicated labyrinths.

12 / 17
Inside Kartchner Caverns
©Arizona State Parks and Trails
Kartchner Caverns: Benson, Arizona

Kartchner Caverns is one of Arizona's best-kept secrets. The cave was discovered by two explorers in 1974, and they kept it secret until 1978. Today, visitors can opt to one of four tours, including a two-hour photo tour where people can capture the natural beauty of Kartchner's underground world.

13 / 17
Water in a Cave
©Pexels
Painted Cave: Santa Barbara, California

Painted Cave is a kayaking adventure waiting to happen. Located within Channel Islands National Park, visitors are welcome to take a day-long guided tour paddling through clear waters into a dark, narrow cave. The sea cave is the longest of its kind in North America.

14 / 17
Waterfall in a cave
©Shutterstock
Ruby Falls: Chattanooga, Tennessee

At Ruby Falls and Caves, visitors can go on the classic waterfall tour and view the tallest and deepest cave waterfall open to the public in the United States. The cave was formed from the limestone of Lookout Mountain.

15 / 17
Niagara Cave
©ab_photography_us/Instagram
Niagara Cave: Harmony, Minnnesota

Niagara Cave's tours highlight stalactites, 400 million-year-old fossils and a 60-foot high waterfall. The walls are sculpted like those of canyons, and the constant temperature throughout the mile-long cave is 48-degrees. 

 

16 / 17
Linville Caverns
©Kolin Toney/Flickr, Creative Commons
Linville Caverns: Boone, North Carolina

The only show cavern in North Carolina, Linville Caverns dazzles visitors with century-old stalagmites and stalactites. Just four miles south of the Blue Ridge Mountain, visitors to the cave can walk through more than 600 feet passageways on a 30-minute tour and peek into total darkness.

17 / 17
Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Park, California
©Ken Lund/Flickr, Creative Commons
Bear Gulch Cave, California

Bear Gulch is an easy adventure for hikers located at Pinnacles National Park. The trail runs through forests, cliffs and two caves. The caves are open for 10 months a year depending on the breeding patterns of the bat colonies.

By Jasmyn Snipes Louis

Caves are some of the world’s greatest natural beauties, formed over centuries from mixtures of limestone, rains and gypsum rocks.

Exploring the ancient wonders may sometimes require heavy gear, but other caves can be navigated by people of all ages making it a fun and educational opportunity for all. So whether you’re spelunking on your own or caving with an expert guide, head into some of the deepest, darkest caves the country has to offer.

Jasmyn Snipes Louis
About the author