These Little Known Caves Hiding In a Florida Forest Are Waiting To Be Explored

Florida is incredibly beautiful, but there are a few natural features found in other parts of the country that we just don’t have. We might be out of luck when it comes to mountains, but Florida actually does have a few impressive caves. We’ve told you about the public show caves at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, but there are also places in the state where you can explore caves without a tour guide.

One of the most impressive examples are the caves in the Withlacoochee State Forest. There are other caves in the expansive forest (over 157,000 acres), but Dames Cave and Peace Cave are well-marked and relatively easy to reach. They’re also beautiful examples of unique karst topography and some of the oldest cave systems in Florida. To visit the caves, you should take Trail 22, which you can reach from Citrus Way. A spray-painted sign marks the unofficial parking lot, which is not supervised (park at your own risk). It’s always smart to bring a flashlight and a buddy. Call (352) 797-4140 for more information or help with directions.

The central location makes exploring the caves an easy day trip from Tampa or Orlando, and it’s absolutely free. Unfortunately, the fact that it’s free and not constantly under the watchful eye of officials has led to years of damage and spray-painting of the cave walls, so much so that the Dames cave system has also been called Vandal Cave. It’s possible that the caves may not remain open forever if they continue to be damaged.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find if you go check out these caves:

We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:

Have you ever visited these caves? What’s your favorite place in Florida to go exploring?