Walking above ground, we don’t often stop to think about what might be beneath us. But the fact is, here in Virginia at least, there are vast caves, rooms, tunnels, and even lakes below the ground. Fortunately many of these incredible spaces have been opened to the public, complete with lighting, walkways, stairs — and in one case, even an elevator. Walking through these sometimes narrow, sometimes massive spaces, it’s easy to feel as if you are in a new world — or at least on the set of “Lord of the Rings.”
1. Luray Caverns, Luray
Luray Caverns are the most well known of the Virginia caverns.
The green pond known as the "Wishing Well" has coins piled 3 feet deep at the bottom.
"Saracen's Tent" is considered to be one of the most well-formed drapery formations in the world.
These "fried egg" formations are impressively convincing.
"Dream Lake" provides an almost perfect mirror reflection of the stalactites above.
"Pluto's Ghost" (named after the Roman god of the underworld, naturally) is a white column that was mistaken for an actual ghost by early explorers of the caverns. Remember, the lighting wasn't as good in 1878.
The Stalacpipe Organ is a visitor favorite. Rubber mallets strike stalactites above the organ when the keys are played.
2. Shenandoah Caverns, Quicksburg
Shenandoah Caverns are the only caverns with elevator service that reaches the 17 underground rooms.
The "bacon" formations at Shenandoah Caverns would go nicely with Luray's fried eggs. What is it with caverns and breakfast food?
"Rainbow Lake" could almost make you believe in magic.
3. Skyline Caverns, Front Royal
Skyline Caverns' "Fairyland Lake" seems very well named in my humble opinion.
Anthodites, called "orchids of the mineral kingdom", are very rare flower-like formations found in Skyline Caverns.
Tours of Skyline Caverns go more than 250 feet underground.
4. Natural Bridge Caverns, Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge Caverns are the deepest caverns on the East Coast.
They extend 34 stories underground.
These beautiful caverns feature dripstone, flowstone, draperies, pools, stalactites, and stalagmites.
5. Endless Caverns, New Market
The Endless Caverns were discovered by 2 boys hunting rabbits in 1879. They would have thought they were on an alien planet if only Star Trek had been around back then.
6. Dixie Caverns at Dixie Caverns and Pottery, Salem
Dixie Caverns' underground reflecting pool sits in a room called "The Magic Mirror Room."
Dixie Caverns are the only caverns in Southwest Virginia. Looking down, you can only imagine just how deep these caverns must go.
7. Grand Caverns (Weyer's Cave), Grottoes
The Grand Caverns were discovered in 1804 by a young trapper named Bernard Weyer. He named the caverns after himself and 2 years later, opened them to visitors, making "Weyer's Cave" the first commercially shown caverns in the U.S.
Grand Caverns have been rated #2 in the nation for their amazing geographical features.
To me, caverns are like underground castles. How many of these breathtaking places have you explored? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!