Bucket List December 21, 2021
16 Caves Across America That Lead To Unforgettable Underground Adventures
When planning your next big adventure in America, the options are numerous: from
frozen waterfalls and dreamy hot springs to manmade wonders and captivating castles, opportunities abound for epic exploration in the U.S. Some might say “the sky’s the limit” — but any stargazer or mountain climber would disagree, as there truly is no limit on what we can explore here in the U.S. In fact, there are entire worlds beneath our feet; caverns and caves creating some of the most incredible underworlds known to mankind. This brings us to today’s adventure: 16 caves across America that offer explorers a glimpse into truly wondrous worlds that seem too resplendent to be real — but luckily for us, they’re all wholly, wonderfully real.
Lava Beds National Monument - California
Lava Beds National Monument Road, Lava Beds National Monument Rd, California, USA
One of the most remarkable places in the country, Lava Beds National Monument will challenge your very definition of a "cave." This incredible natural landmark in California was formed by the movement of volcanic lava over the earth’s surface a half million years ago, resulting in a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features above ground, and more than 800 caves below ground. In addition, the park is geologically outstanding because of its great variety of "textbook" volcanic formations, including fumaroles, cinder cones, spatter cones, pit craters hornitos, maars, volcanic fields, and lava tube caves. There are 25 lava tubes at this national park, and they are
open to adventurers for tours and exploration
. Come and revel in this glorious underworld that's 500,000 years in the making.
Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve - Oregon
Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve, 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA
Deep within Oregon’s mysterious Siskiyou Mountains are dark, twisting passageways just waiting to be explored.
Oregon Caves National Monument
is the culmination of eons of acidic water seeping into marble rock, which ultimately created one of the state’s grandest natural wonders. Known as the “Marble Halls of Oregon,” the Oregon Caves are a stunning spectacle that absolutely belongs on your bucket list. Even better? You can take a tour and explore both the mountain
cavern — from the inside out!
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park - Montana
Lewis and Clark caverns, Unnamed Road, Whitehall, MT 59759, USA
Montana might be known as "Big Sky Country," but there's a massive
in the state that commands attention, too. The
Lewis and Clark Caverns
are of the largest limestone caves in the northwest United States, named as such because the famous Lewis and Clark expedition camped within sight of the caverns in 1805. The caves are known for their otherworldly limestone formations formed millions of years ago, with a dazzling array of stalactites, stalagmites, and columns protruding from the cavern walls and ceiling. The 3,000-acre park features not just cave tours, but also beautiful scenery and a campground, making this an amazing
for your next bucket-list adventure.
Wind Cave National Park - South Dakota
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, USA
is located in the eponymous national park, near the city of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave National Park is one of the first national parks in the country and the first-ever to protect a cave system. Boasting 33,847 acres, Wind Cave National Park houses a complex cave system that dates back millions of years, as well as a rich Native American history and abundant wildlife. Billed as the sixth-longest cave in the world (at 140 miles), Wind Cave is also considered to be the densest and is also home to approximately 95% of the world's discovered boxwork formations. Superlatives aside, Wind Cave National Park is breathtakingly beautiful; it's truly a must-visit place for all adventure-seekers.
Jewel Cave National Monument - South Dakota
Jewel Cave National Monument, 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730, USA
Proving that South Dakota is so much more than just its prestigious presidential monolith,
Jewel Cave National Monument
is, quite simply, sublime. As its name suggests, Jewel Cave is truly a wondrous hidden gem; it's billed as being the broadest and deepest cave in South Dakota, and, with 200+ miles of mapped passageways, it's considered to be the third-largest cave in the world. Offered daily, the Scenic Tour lasts 90 minutes and gives visitors the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the cave's calcite-adorned chambers up close.
Antelope Canyon - Arizona
Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona 86040, USA
defies definition; this gorgeous canyon is unlike many others that dot our remarkable country, as it's a slot canyon with tall sandstone walls, unique natural designs, and a palette of warm, rich colors. Antelope Canyon is located on land belonging to the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, and luckily for us, the Navajo Nation has been generous enough to open this sacred site to visitors who travel through with permitted guides. If you are looking for an adventure that makes you feel like you are in a different world, Antelope Canyon in Arizona deserves a top spot on your bucket list.
Carlsbad Caverns - New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico
might just be the most beautiful place in the entire country. Located 20 miles outside of the city of Carlsbad, this extraordinary natural wonder is a limestone cave that was once part of an underwater reef in an inland sea. Put in perspective, the body of water that formed the cavern was on the earth
250 to 280 million years ago
. Today, visitors can explore this otherworldly expanse on two trails: The Big Room and Natural Entrance. We're partial to the former; it's the largest single cave chamber in the United States and features stunning formations such as the fabled Sword of Damocles.
Natural Bridge Caverns - Texas
Natural Bridge Caverns Road, Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX, USA
Natural Bridge Caverns
certainly lives up to the "everything's bigger in Texas" mantra; this jaw-dropping, two-mile cavern is a wondrous world unto itself. Discovered in 1960 by an intrepid group of college students, Natural Bridge Caverns were opened to the public in 1964 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. This glistening limestone grotto looks like something from another world, offering a glimpse of what the Texas hill country landscape once looked like. Today, visitors can experience this underworld firsthand through one of the park's myriad guided tours. Curious explorers should check out the Hidden Passages Tour; this 70-minute excursion showcases the intricate "cave ribbons" and "soda straw" structures for which Natural Bridge Caverns is best known. A portion of this experience takes place in pure darkness, too, making for a thrilling experience that belongs on any adventurer's bucket list.
DeSoto Caverns - Alabama
Desoto Caverns Parkway, Desoto Caverns Pkwy, Childersburg, AL, USA
Alabama has one of the highest cave densities in the world, with its expansive subterranean playgrounds attracting some of the top climbers on the planet. In fact, cavers travel from all over the globe to explore the state's spectacular caves. One cave that remains at the top of most cave enthusiasts' bucket lists is
. Located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains in Childersburg, Alabama, DeSoto Caverns is one of the most unexpected treasures in the South. Believed to be America's first recorded cave, DeSoto is full of immense beauty, with the "Great Onyx Cathedral" one of its many hidden treasures. This "cathedral" is actually a room at DeSoto Caverns that's longer than a football field and 12 stories high. Its grandeur cannot be contained in a picture; this is simply a place you must experience for yourself.
Meramec Caverns - Missouri
Meramec Caverns, 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080, USA
attracts upwards of 150,000 visitors from all over the globe each year, and it's not difficult to see why. The limestone caverns, which date back an estimated 400 million years, boast an impressive history which includes serving as Jesse James's hideout when he was running from the law. Billed as the “Greatest Show Under The Earth," guided tours last 1.5 hours and offer an up-close view of these legendary caves and tunnels. Along the way, you'll discover a plethora of picture-perfect moments as your seasoned tour guides give you insight into the rich history of the limestone caverns. But the fun doesn't stop there; Meramec Caverns is home to an abundance of aboveground adventures, too, making it an amazing
sure to check several items off your bucket list.
Niagara Cave - Minnesota
Niagara Cave, 29842 Co Hwy 30, Harmony, MN 55939, USA
might have its namesake beat, as this Minnesota wonder features not only an immense underground cavern system, but also a subterranean waterfall. This cave was discovered in 1924 and opened for tours a decade later. Niagara Cave is one of only two caves that you can officially visit in Minnesota, making it all the more rare and special. This is a lovely limestone cave created and carved by water over millions of years; and on a tour, you'll find yourself in a passageway that truly feels like something out of a sci-fi film.
Ohio Caverns - Ohio
Ohio Caverns - Open All Year, 2210 OH-245 E, West Liberty, OH 43357, USA
Did you know that underneath fields of farmland in southeastern Ohio lies an enchanted natural world that began forming millions of years ago? The
are quite literally one of the Midwest's most glorious -- and colorful -- hidden gems and make for an epic underground adventure for explorers of all ages. Depending on the season, different guided tours are offered, each offering a unique experience of these extensive caves. For guests with limited mobility (or younger families), Ohio Caverns offers a seasonal Limestone Tour with advanced reservations, making this incredible underground cavern system one
Mammoth Cave - Kentucky
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, USA
Within the rolling hills of west-central Kentucky, nestled on the edge of America's Southern Appalachian Region, lies an underground world millions of years in the making. Mammoth Cave is one of the greatest wonders in the country -- and the world. This massive cavern system features some 400 miles of underground caverns and passageways, with more miles being added all the time. In fact, Kentucky’s
recently got a little longer, following the discovery of an additional eight miles of passages by the Cave Research Foundation. Easily the most famous cave in the country, Mammoth Cave is a place that deserves a top spot on your bucket list.
Ruby Falls - Tennessee
Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN 37409, USA
There are some places that really take you by surprise, immersing you in an experience that you know you’ll remember for the rest of your life. You forget where you are and are just completely
in the moment
in Tennessee is one of those places. Ruby Falls isn’t as much an attraction, as it is an experience. Sure, Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. And the mountain overlook directly overhead allows for some of the most spectacular views of the Tennessee Valley, Cumberland Plateau, and Tennessee River – not to mention epic outdoor recreation. But Ruby Falls is so much more than numbers or bullet points. It’s one of the most magical places you’ll ever visit.
Luray Caverns - Virginia
Luray Caverns Service Road, Luray Caverns Service Rd, Luray, VA 22835, USA
Virginia's Shenandoah Valley is a place of incredible beauty, with its rolling mountains and lush landscape. But the beauty here isn't just
; beneath the valley, an otherworldly land awaits.
is one of the most fascinating natural areas in the country, transporting visitors to an underground world of both bizarre and beautiful rock formations. The commercial cave was actually discovered by accident in 1878 and continues to awe travelers and explorers to this day. The enormous site is one of the many treasures in the Shenandoah Valley and is made up of several “rooms,” each with unique features. One particularly mesmerizing attraction is the Wishing Well, a teal-colored pool of water that has collected coins from fanciful visitors since the 1950s. Dream Lake is another popular site that doubles as an optical illusion; despite its seemingly endless depth, the pool is only about 18 inches deep! Luray Caverns is a trip down a wondrous, real-life rabbit hole that you won't ever forget.
Howe Cavern - New York
Howes Cave, NY 12092, USA
In a state that's world-renowned for its above-ground attractions and metropolises, Howe Cavern is quite literally an outlier -- a wondrous, marvelous outlier. It's
one of the most unique natural attractions
you'll ever explore in the Empire State -- and country. The caves were first discovered in 1842 after local farmer Lester Howe began noticing that his cows were repeatedly making their way towards a dark opening in the ground. In the years since, the cavern has become a popular destination for adventure seekers. The Traditional Cave Tour not only offers guests an extensive exploration of one of the deepest destinations in the Northeast, but the experience culminates in the deepest boat ride in New York. This epic tour takes guests through an extensive underground cave system that culminates in an underground body of water: the marvelous Lake Venus. Now
truly is an awe-inspiring experience for your bucket list.
The world is a wide, wonderful place, full of opportunities everywhere you turn — including underground. Fan the flames of your wanderlust with a visit to these unforgettable underworlds, each of which offers an experience that truly is bucket-list worthy.
Address: Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve, 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA Address: Carlsbad, NM 88220, USA Address: Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, USA Address: Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, USA Address: Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN 37409, USA Address: Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona 86040, USA Address: Desoto Caverns Parkway, Desoto Caverns Pkwy, Childersburg, AL, USA Address: Meramec Caverns, 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080, USA Address: Niagara Cave, 29842 Co Hwy 30, Harmony, MN 55939, USA Address: Jewel Cave National Monument, 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730, USA Address: Lava Beds National Monument Road, Lava Beds National Monument Rd, California, USA Address: Luray Caverns Service Road, Luray Caverns Service Rd, Luray, VA 22835, USA Address: Natural Bridge Caverns Road, Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX, USA Address: Ohio Caverns - Open All Year, 2210 OH-245 E, West Liberty, OH 43357, USA Address: Howes Cave, NY 12092, USA Address: Lewis and Clark caverns, Unnamed Road, Whitehall, MT 59759, USA