If you are into cave exploration or spelunking as part of your tourist adventure, here are some of the caves to visit in the United States.
From Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, which holds the title of the world's largest cave system, to the Ruby Hall Haunted Cavern and the Halloween experience it offers all year round, we are going to learn about some of the best caves and caverns in the USA and help you decide which one you want to visit first.
These caverns contain some of the most beautiful landscapes and rock formations. These caves are a world of their own and are fascinating destinations for local and international tourists alike.
Let's explore some of the incredible caves and caverns in the USA.
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Starting off our list is not just one of the most famous caves in the USA but one of the most famous in the world.
The appropriately named Mammoth Cave near Brownsville, Kentucky, is the longest cave system in the world, with 412 miles of wondrous limestone and sandstone formations.
Spanning across the counties of Edmonson, Barren, and Hart, the cave is part of the Mammoth Cave National Park, and the National Park Service supplies rangers to the site to provide some of the best cave tours in the US.
For cave tours, visit Grand Avenue, Frozen Niagara, and Fat Man's Misery.
These can be seen on lighted tours and paraffin lamp tours. For those who are a little adventurous, choose the route where you can experience crawling in the mud and dusty tunnels. Finally, take a boat ride through the Echo River Tour along the underground river.
Any list like this may be subjective, but if you are grading by size, Mammoth Cave is certainly a candidate for one of the best caves in the USA.
Address: 1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Be awed in beauty and wonder when you explore the deep rocky canyons, caverns, ancient sea ledges, thorny shrubs, and cacti of this cave tucked below the desert terrain. There are about 119 caves you can explore, which are formed with sulfuric acid and limestone.
You can explore the Big Room and Main Corridor with self-guided cave tours or explore the underground with ranger-guided tours like the Bell Cord Room, Bit Frost Room, Bat Cave, and the like. At night, you can see the exodus of the Brazilian free-tailed bats.
Address: 3225 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
Another famous cave is Jewel Cave near Custer in South Dakota, which ranks third in the list of longest caves in the world.
With more than 215 miles of passageways with sparkling calcites or crystals adorning its walls, you could get lost exploring the wonder of one of the best caves in America.
Perhaps some of the most impressive sights from Jewel Cave are the spar crystals for which it is named.
These crystals break into shapes with beautiful flat surfaces that are shiny and smooth, giving them the appearance of naturally appearing jewelry.
You can also explore some of the drapery formations in its caverns. Choose from among the cave tours being offered, mainly the Discovery Tour, Scenic Tour, Historic Lantern Tour, and Wild Caving Tour.
Address: Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer, SD 57730
Situated in southeastern Minnesota, Niagara Cave is a naturally formed cave that boasts an array of unique features. Discovered in 1856 by a group of farmers, the cave has since become a popular tourist destination.
Measuring in at nearly a mile long, Niagara Cave is home to a variety of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave also features a 60-foot waterfall, which flows into an underground river.
Visitors can take guided tours of the cave, which last about an hour. During the tour, guests will learn about the history of the cave as well as see some of its most iconic features.
Address: 29842 Co Rd 30, Harmony, MN 55939
The rich history of the Meramec Caverns alone designates it as one of the best caverns in the USA.
The cave stretches about 4.6 miles of limestone deposits created over a million years ago.
This is famous for its Native American settlers who used the caves as shelter. The cavern system attracts thousands of tourists because of its historical significance related to the Confederate war, the hideout of the infamous Jesse James, and the firming location of some known movies.
The site is an all-around experience with plenty to do within the caverns and above them, making it one of the most popular cave attractions in the United States.
Address: 1135 State Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080
The Luray Caverns is undoubtedly one of the best caves and caverns in the USA due to their ornate natural decorations.
This was discovered in 1878, and its cavern system has teemed with columns, mudflows, stalagmites, stalactites, and mirrored pools. Explore the Great Stalacpipe Organ with its massive and solenoid fired strikers.
The caverns are yellow, brown, or red because of the mix of chemicals and minerals. The Giant's Hall, Pluto's Ghost, as well as some draperies are a sight to behold.
If you are visiting with a family with varied tastes, a Luray Caverns ticket will even get you through to a host of other attractions, including Toy Town Junction, the Shenandoah Heritage Village, and the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum.
Address: 101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835
The Caverns of Sonora are formed by 100 million years of cretaceous limestone. It boasts three-dimensional mazes, with each wall covered with crystals or sparkling speleothems that are intricately layered to form a beautiful maze.
Cave tours will take you to some enchanted areas with caverns, walls and ceilings lined with corals, soda straws, stalagmites, and coral trees.
While visiting, make sure to bring the appropriate clothing because not only does the temperature of the caverns sit in the 70s Fahrenheit, but the almost 100% humidity makes it feel like 80-degree temperatures.
Address: 1711 Private Road, Sonora, TX 76950
Ruby Falls at Chattanooga, Tennessee, might have a romantic history in that it was named after the wife of the man who discovered it, but the Haunted Cavern brings an experience far from romantic.
This is for the brave who can descend 26 stories underground to explore the caverns deep within.
Ruby Falls is a 145-foot-high underground waterfall that is formed by a large vertical shaft. You can see the stream that is fed by both rainwater and natural springs as it collects into a pool on the cave floor.
From haunts to escape rooms, the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is not just a geological exploration but a whole experience, harnessing the natural dread of being underground with all the tropes from horror movies that would reflect an attraction on Halloween or outside of it.
If you are looking for something a little different, Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is one of the most unique caves in the United States.
Address: 1720 South Scenic Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37409
If you have been disappointed by the show caves that have been dominating the list so far, Ape Cave near Cougar, Washington, offers some of the best spelunking in the US.
Ape Cave was only explored for the first time in the 1950s, and it is similarly young in its formation. It owes its origins to the infamous Mount St. Helens, which sent lava down the path only two millennia ago, creating a natural tunnel as it cooled and hardened.
If you like blazing your own trail and are not interested in guided tours, Ape Cave should be one of the mandatory attractions on your list. Just keep in mind that despite that, the cave is not open all year round, and reservations are nonetheless needed.
Address: Cougar, WA 98616
Although Moaning Cavern has been visited by people for thousands of years, it was rediscovered and brought back into prominence in the mid-19th century by prospectors looking for gold.
Although no gold was found, the stunning beauty of the cave could not be ignored, and it continues to be an attraction today.
The moaning cave is located at the bottom of a spacious vertical shaft at 165 feet tall; you continue descending the 100-foot spiral staircase until you reach the cavern at around 410 feet in depth.
Here, you can explore the oldest human remains of prehistoric people in the Americas. The cave has been a resting place for people who fell in its opening; thus, named as "moaning cave".
Moaning Cavern is also welcoming to spelunkers, making it a great choice for visitors looking for a bit of adventure or simply not wanting to be bound by the restrictions of a guided tour. However, if you prefer a tour, do not worry – you will also find them on offer.
Address: 5350 Moaning Cave Rd, Vallecito, CA 95251
Although there has always been controversy over whether slot canyons – those with an exceptionally lopsided depth-to-width ratio – like the ones at Antelope Canyon can truly be classified as caves or caverns, no one can deny the beauty of this Arizona attraction.
The canyon was formed over millions of years by the erosion of sandstone and other rocks. Wind and water have carved out a series of narrow, twisting canyons that are a photographer's paradise.
The light at Antelope Canyon is ever-changing, and creates an otherworldly atmosphere that is unlike anywhere else on earth. If you're looking for an amazing place to take some photos, Antelope Canyon is definitely worth a visit.
Address: 22 S Lake Powell Blvd, Page, AZ 86040
Lava River Cave in Deschutes County, Oregon, is not named for the poetry alone. The cave is shaped so perfectly, like a tunnel, because it used to be a channel through which lava flowed.
As the lava on top cooled to form the roof of the cave and the rest of it flowed out, the distinctive and almost-too-perfect cave was formed.
The Lava River Cave sits within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, operated by the United States Forest Service.
This allows visitors to the site to pay a humble $5 per vehicle for access and enjoy all of the other stunning sights around the cave in addition to it.
Address: Bend, OR 97707
The Lost Sea Caverns, also known as the Craighead Caverns, easily rank as one of the best caves in America.
Located in Monroe County, Tennessee, the site is most famous for its greatest attraction, the largest underground lake in the US.
Not only does the guided tour take you down deep into the caverns along steep and mystical paths, but when you get to the Lost Sea itself, you will get to enjoy a boat ride on it, during which you can marvel at the features that appear to grow like crystal flowers along the cave walls.
If you are more interested in history than geology, you can walk through the same paths that Confederate military miners, mushroom farmers, moonshiners, and ancient jaguar tracks.
Address: 140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, TN 37874
The Blanchard Springs Caverns are located in Stone County, Arkansas, as part of the Ozark National Forest. Under the stewardship of the Forest Service, three guided tours are offered - each with a slightly different twist.
The Dripstone Trail is the beginner’s option but no less of an experience, taking you less than half a mile through passages hosting all sorts of cave critters, including the famous salamanders.
The Discovery Trail picks up the complexity and increases the intensity, giving the fitter and more adventurous visitors a deeper look into the lower parts of the caverns.
Finally, the Wild Cave Tour lasts the longest at three to four hours and is for the true cave aficionados and includes plenty of crawling through less developed parts of the caverns.
Address: 704 Blanchard Springs Road, Fifty-Six, AR 72533
If you like bats, the Kartchner Caverns State Park in Cochise County, Arizona, is a must-see, with the cave hosting a colony of myotis velifer, or as they are called, colloquially the common cave bat.
Just be sure to avoid coming in the winter, when the bats hibernate at another location and cannot be spotted from the caverns.
Arizona State Parks operates four different tours. The two standard cave tours go through other parts of the cave, with the Rotunda/Throne Tour being only partially underground and the Big Room Tour as well, but going a bit deeper.
The Helmet and Headlamp Tour lets visitors go through an authentic experience, mimicking the adventures of decades gone by, while once-a-month the Photo Tours are offered, taking place on the third Saturday of each month.
Address: 2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ 85602
The Fantastic Caverns, just to the northwest of Springfield, Missouri, boast many wonders, but one of the most notable is the site's status as the only cave in America where the tour is carried out entirely on a tram being towed by a motorized vehicle, in this case, a Jeep.
The cave also has a rich and unique history. Unlike most caves in the region, it was not used to mine saltpeter for the war effort during the Civil War by either side, not because it was unsuitable, but because the man who discovered it did not let anyone know until after the war ended.
Address: 4872 N Farm Rd 125, Springfield, MO 65803
Our list of the best caves in the USA concludes with Kazumura Cave on the island of Hawaii.
Kazumura Cave is one of the world’s longest lava tubes. It is also one of the deepest, with a depth of over 1,000 feet. The cave is located on the island of Hawaii, and is a popular tourist destination.
The Kazumura Cave was formed by lava flow from the Kilauea volcano. The lava flow cooled and solidified on the surface, but continued to flow beneath the surface. As the lava cooled, it formed a system of tunnels and chambers.
The Kazumura Cave is home to a variety of native Hawaiian animals, including bats and spiders. The cave is also home to a number of rare plants that are found nowhere else in the world.
Address: Volcano, HI 96785
Maybe you are already an aficionado of caves in the USA, or perhaps you are just now beginning your journey with this list, but either way, we have learned today about the best caves in America and the kinds of features that make them memorable, special, or just plain interesting. With everything on offer, which one of these incredible locations will be the first stop on your trip?
Mammoth Cave consists of over 400 miles of passageways, making it not just the biggest cave in the United States but also the biggest cave in the entire world, truly earning its name.
Jewel Cave in South Dakota is the prettiest cave in the United States, with the ornate natural crystals giving it its name, making visitors feel like they are in an opulent fairy tale.
Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico still includes little caves and passageways that have not been explored or mapped, meaning that if you visit and explore far enough, you might set foot somewhere that no human before you ever has.