All opinions and recommendations are our own
Ready to explore some of the Creepy, Mysterious, and Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
If so, we’ve got you covered.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most impressive caves in the Southern U.S. We’ll explore icicle-shaped formation known as stalactites and stalagmites, caves with “bacon” flowstone, and caves with magical entrances that stretch 126 feet wide and 25 feet high. We’ll also explore the rare caves that hold world records, how to choose which caves to visit, and how to make the most of your visit.
So, let’s get started!
1.) Linville Caverns
Nestled within Humpback Mountain, part of the BlueRidge Mountains, lies the Linville Caverns. The caverns are located in Marion, North Carolina, roughly 36 miles east of Asheville, NC, and the only “show cave” in North Carolina that is open to the public. Getting to the caverns is a beautiful drive, and even more so, if you’re traveling during peak foliage season.
Bit of history: “In the early 1800’s a fishing expedition headed by Henry E. Colton, were astounded to see fish swimming in and out of what appeared to be rather solid rock. A small opening in the mountainous terrain allowed them to enter the subterranean recess that is still home to native trout in an underground stream.”
What makes the Linville Caverns one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
- Small, quaint, and reasonably priced admission
- Beautiful limestone cavern
- Perfect for a first-time cave visitor
- Ideal for all ages
- “Partially wheelchair accessible”
(Friends confirmed wheelchair accessibility with help)
- Single Passage tour route (if you are claustrophobic, you do not have a tour this portion)
- Beautiful creek running through the parking lot
- Tour Approximately 30 minutes
- Linville Falls Winery down the road
- Linville River Log Cabins
2.) Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the nation’s tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Discovered in 1928, Leo Lambert and a team of excavators were uncovering a cave within Lookout Mountain when they discovered an awe-inspiring waterfall. The fall, later named after Leo’s wife, Ruby, would become the most treasured underground waterfalls in U.S. Cave History.
What makes the Ruby Falls one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
- One of my favorite caves to visit around the holidays
- Many options for planning your visit
- Ticket Atrium entrance features the stunning 37-foot waterfall mural, geode-encrusted ticket desk, self-serve ticket kiosks, and guest locker rentals
- Descend 26-stories into the cave by elevator before walking the 1-mile paved cavern trail
- Guided along a scenic path to discover the breathtaking waterfall, 1,120 ft. below ground.
- Recently offering lantern tours – Discover the wonder of the cavern-like Leo Lambert did in 1928. Be sure to check out the website as tours are sometimes seasonal and can change.
- Truly a Magical, Mysterious, Underground Waterfall and Historic Cave
3.) Luray Caverns
Not far from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, located west of Luray, Virginia, you’ll find the Luray Caverns. The caverns have been drawing visitors since they were first discovered in 1878. One step inside the cavern and you’ll know you’re in Geology’s Hall of Fame. Luray Caverns is the largest and most popular caverns in Eastern U.S.
The Luray caverns are lined with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, mirrored pools, optical illusions, and much more. A tour leads visitors through massive cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings as high as 10-stories, calcite formations, towering stone columns, shimmering draperies, crystal-clear pools, and natural wonders were seen at Luray.
Currently, Luray Caverns is one of the few underground marvels that provides tours on all-paved walkways with step free entry. This allows the cave more accessible to all visitors now and in the future.
What makes the Luray Caverns one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
- This magical cavern is nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, just to the west of the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains in Luray, Virginia
- The Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum, and Toy Town Junction are included with every Luray Caverns ticket
- The Great Stalacpipe Organ – The world’s largest musical instrument. It literally makes stalactites sing by gently tapping them throughout three acres of the caverns
- Dominating Giant’s Hall at a height of 47 feet, this column is the tallest and one of the most spectacular formations in the caverns
- Easy access for people of all ages and ability
- All-paved walkways with step-free cave entrance
4.) Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave National Park located in Mammoth Kentucky, is home to one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S. Opening in 1941, Mammoth Cave National Park is located in central Kentucky and compasses a portion of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world. The cave system, a limestone labyrinth, has more than 400 miles (643km) of surveyed passageways. It is said that an early guide, Stephen Bishop, called the cave a “grand, gloomy and a peculiar place, ” but it was the massive passages that lead to the rotunda inside the main entrance that it earned the name – Mammoth.
What makes the Mammoth Cave one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
- Geologists estimate that the oldest part of Mammoth Cave began forming around 10 million years ago.
- Lot of tour options. Tours are based on your time and skill level
(Take into consideration the age and skill of all those in your party before purchasing tickets. We know from personal experience.)
- Cave offers both self- guided tours as well as guided tours
- Open year-round (check website)
- Reasonable priced admission
- Offers the toughest tour challenge: five-mile, six-hour, belly-crawling Wild Cave Tour, offered daily in summer and weekends year-round. (Be sure to make a reservation for this one)
- Fun Fact: Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored.
Originally called Bat Cave, Cathedral Caverns was opened to the public in the 1950’s. The cave was later renamed because of its cathedral-like appearance and magical cave opening measuring 126 feet wide and 25 feet high. The Cavern is located in Woodville, Alabama and short drive from Huntsville.
Cathedral Caverns is know for it’s grand entrance but that is just the beginning of what the cavern has to offer. Once inside, you’ll explore some of the most beautiful formations ever seen. One of which is called “Goliath” – one of the largest stalagmites in the world, measuring 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference. Another such formation is a “caveman” perched atop a flowstone wall, a “frozen” waterfall, and a large stalagmite forest.
What makes Cathedral Caverns one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
- Cavern is a comfortable 60 degrees temperature year round.
- Park itself encompasses 493 acres and marked hiking trails available for those who want to enjoy the outdoors.
- Wheelchair Accessible
- Recommend booking ahead of time – Tour dates and admission
- Beautiful cave with so many interesting formations and a rich history.
- Short drive from Northern Alabama attractions: Marshall Space and Flight Center, Huntsville, and much more.
The Caverns of Sonora, a A National Natural Landmark, are a unique cavern system located west of the small city of Sonora, the seat of Sutton County, Texas. The Caverns of Sonora offers private and group tours. Be sure to check the website for any seasonal changes in tours and dates. One of the things that makes the Caverns of Sonora uniques is the different tours they offer. Let’s explore the tour options.
The Palace tour:
Offers an intimate and expertly guided walking tour, of 12 people or less, through almost two miles of highly decorated cave passages. Tour takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. There are 360 stair steps but you go to a depth of 155 ft. below the surface.
The Group Tour:
Specialty, School, and large groups are invited to view the cave with advanced reservations. They offers group pricing and tax exempt rates where applicable.
The Discovery Challenge Tour:
Feeling Adventurous? The Discovery Challenge is an unforgettable caving adventure led by an experienced caver through a maze of off trail passageways. Rappel fifty feet into the Devil’s Pit and experience firsthand the thrill of navigating the cave like real cavers. We provide all equipment necessary. The Discovery Challenge takes approximately 4 hours. Minimum tour size is 2 and maximum tour size is 6. This tour is ideal fun for families, couples, and is a great team building experience for small groups.
The Photography Tour
Photography lovers can zoom in on the tiny, mineral rich, water droplets, capture rare, clear crystal helictites, and focus their cameras where they choose. This tour is a dream for photographers. Groups are given access to trails in an “unhurried” photo walk through one of the most beautiful caves in the world. And tripods are also allowed.
What makes Caverns of Sonora one of the Most Magical Caves of the Southern U.S.?
- National Natural Landmark
- Stunning array of calcite crystal formations, especially helictites
- Cave Temperature- 72F/22C and 98% humidity. (Feels like 85F/29C) We are a WARM cave. No need for sweaters or jackets!
- Cave bacon, a type of flowstone in the Caverns of Sonora
- Tour Options are based on skill level and also over an advanced tour for the more seasoned explorer
Travel Notes & Suggestions
As with any trip, I’d like to offer some tips/hacks that have helped us over the years with trip planning.
- Strollers: A must for parents and caregivers but unfortunately, they are not allowed in most caves and caverns.
Helpful Tip: Consider using a child backpack or sling to carry small children through the cavern. Super helpful and makes things easier. Note: More Recently, some caverns are now “step-free” and do allow strollers, so check with the cavern first before packing or purchasing additional travel gear.
- Clothing: It’s going to be cooler in a cave than it is above ground but it’s also going to be damp perhaps even wet. Dress appropriately. Read the website and know what to bring. Wear comfortable clothes, light jacket and also wear good walking/hiking shoes.
- Planning your Visit: Most vacationers think of exploring caves and caverns in the spring or summer, but it’s good to note that they can be explored year around.
- Reservations: You may not be asked to make reservation ahead of time, but in most cases it’s highly recommend. It’ll bring peace of mind knowing that your trip is all planned and you have your tickets ahead of time.
I hope this list was able to provide you with some ideas for planning your next trip. Exploring Caves of the Southern U.S. can be fun, educational and a great way to enjoy nature. Happy Spelunking!
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