September 7, 2023
Ready to explore the underworld? Prepare to head underground and discover some of America’s most enchanting and mysterious caves. From extravagant waterfalls to caverns thousands of feet below the earth’s surface, here are 7 otherworldly caves you need to experience in your lifetime.
1. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Inside the King’s Palace. NPS photo/Peter Jones
Hidden under the Chihuahuan Desert you will find one of the world’s biggest, deepest, and fanciest caves. The deepest chamber within Carlsbad Caverns is 1,027 feet below the surface and there are currently 119 known caves. Visitors can explore the Big Room and the Natural Entrance on self-guided tours or partake in ranger-led hikes of the King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, lower Cave, and Hall of the White Giant, an adventure that includes crawling through narrow passages and climbing ladders.
2. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Inside Mammoth Cave. NPS photo
Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system and more than 400 miles of this grand labyrinth have been explored to date. Visitors have access to 10 eerie miles within the cave. There is no garnish lighting used so if you aren’t a fan of the dark, a cave tour may not be for you.
3. Ruby Falls, Tennessee
145-foot Ruby Falls. Joshua Forrest
Ruby Falls, concealed 1,120 ft below Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, was discovered in 1928 by leo Lambert and his team of excavators. This magical waterfall tumbles 145 feet to the pool below, making it the world’s biggest underground waterfall.
4. Niagara Cave, Minnesota
Passageway in Niagra Cave. Tisius Syracuse
This mysterious cave can be found in Harmony, MN and it’s been rated as one of the top 10 caves in the United States by numerous travel outlets. Inside you will find an enormous 60 ft. waterfall, aptly named by early explorers after the iconic Niagara Falls in New York. If you’ve been searching for a unique wedding venue, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a wedding chapel inside the cave that has seen more than 400 couples tie the knot.
5. Kartchner Caverns, Arizona
Inside the Big Room. Mike Lewis
You will find this magnificent cave in Benson, Arizona. Visitors can explore 2.4-miles of passages filled with unusual stalactites that appear to drip right from the ceiling and massive stalagmites rising from the cave floor. The two main features of the caverns are the Big Room and the Throne Room. The Big Room is closed during the summer months because it is a nursery roost for thousands of cave bats, and the Throne room is home to the world’s longest soda straw stalactites.
6. Luray Caverns, Virginia
Dream Lake at Luray Caverns. Jon Callas
Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, venturing through Luray Caverns is like stepping into another world. Explore cathedral-sized rooms and marvel at the towering ceilings 10 stories above you. Massive stone columns and clear pools can be found throughout the cave, and if you’re lucky, you will hear the haunting notes of the world’s first and only Stalacpipe organ.
7. Caverns of Sonora, Texas
Caverns of Sonora. TripNotice.com
Located between San Antonio and Big Bend National Park, the Caverns of Sonora is well-known for being one of the most beautiful caves in the world. Take a tour through narrow passageways and marvel at the unique formations, 95% of which are still considered active.
Featured image by NPS photo.