10 Tennessee Caves to Visit

Did you know that Tennessee is home to almost 10,000 caves? While you can’t enter all of these caves; there are many that you can and they offer beautiful, unique experiences. Some of them are even home to rare and protected wildlife. This fall, take a trip to one of these 10 beautiful caves and make a new experience for you and your family.

1Cumberland Caverns

Photo from Cumberland Caverns website

With more than 32 miles of caves and underground passageways, incredible underground rock formations, beautiful underground waterfalls, gleaming pools, there is plenty of fun and adventure for everyone! There are daily walking tours, daytime caving tours and overnight caving tours for you and your family to enjoy.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes, several
Cost: $22 for adults 13 and up, $14 for children 6-12, 6 and under are free
Website: https://cumberlandcaverns.com

2The Lost Sea

Photo – The Lost Sea Facebook Page

The Lost Sea is one of the most popular caving destinations. The adventure begins with a guided tour of the caverns, which involves a ¾ mile round-trip walk on wide sloping pathways. The pathways can be very steep in places. While touring the caverns and underground lake, your guide will tell you of the caverns’ exciting history, including how the cave was once used by The Cherokee Indians and how the Confederate soldiers mined the cave for saltpeter for the production of gun powder. They will also explain the fascinating geological development of the immense cavern rooms and rare formations. The lake covering more than 4 acres, is recognized by the U.S. Department of the interior as a Registered National Natural Landmark because of the unique natural phenomenon through the cave and the abundance of a large collection of rare anthodites, more commonly known as “Cave Flowers”. The lake is located 140 feet below the ground level, so coming up can be a hike. The tour lasts approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes
Cost: $22 for adults 13 and up, $13 for children 4-12, 4 and under are free
Website: https://thelostsea.com/

3Bell Witch Cavern

Photos from Bell Witch Cave Website

The prevailing account is that the Bell Witch claimed to be the spirit of Kate Batts, a mean old neighbor of John Bell who believed she was cheated by him in a land purchase. On her deathbed, she swore that she would haunt John Bell and his descendants. The story is picked up by the Guidebook for Tennessee, published in 1933 by the Federal Government’s Works Project Administration. The Bell farm is in a secluded area in Adams, Tennessee and it is a very beautiful representation of the state of Tennessee with it’s rolling green hills and farmland. If you are interested in paranormal activity or if you are a history buff then the Bell Witch Cave and Farm will definitely not disappoint. If you like canoeing or kayaking the Red River is a great river to navigate and enjoy the beauty of Tennessee.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes
Cost: $12 per person
*no children under 4, children 18 and under must have parental consent
Website: bellwitchcave.com

4Appalachian Caverns

Photo from Appalachian Caverns website

Archaeological evidence released in February of 2006 revealed that the caverns were used by Early Woodland Native Americans over 1300 years ago. The archeologists found burnt firewood located in a fire pit that has been radiocarbon dated to 675 A.D. They also found pottery, arrowheads, and other evidence of habitation. According to several historians, the caverns have been used by mankind from the earliest times man set foot on what we now call the United States. The importance of the name the cave was given ties to William Linville, a land agent for Lord Granville who served the King of England. In their time, the cave served as a good place to winter and a safe place to avoid your enemy. The Native Americans had already set up a community and the settlers used many of their ways to survive. The cavern is warm in the winter and cool in the summer when compared to the outside. Later, the cavern was used as a hideout for troops and a hospital to treat the wounded during the wars. During the prohibition era, the cavern was used to produce moonshine. With the flowing water and great ventilation, it was an ideal location. There’s plenty of history and unique sights to see at the Appalachian Caverns.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes, several
Cost: $12 adults 12 and up, $7.50 children 4-11, 4 and under are free, senior and military discounts
Website: appacaverns.com

5Bristol Caverns

Photo – Bristol Caverns Facebook Page

Bristol Caverns offer unique paved, well-lit walkways that wind through the vaulted chambers and along the banks of the ancient Underground River that carved these remarkable caverns from the hardcore of the earth 200 to 400 million years ago. Native Americans used the Underground River as an attack and escape route in their raids on settlers. Stealing into the area by way of the Underground River and the caverns, they attacked, then disappeared as if swallowed up by the earth. On the tour through the cave, you will trace their path and explore the vast rooms and arches, columns, and natural stone formations with their rich mineral veins, which give the formations beautiful colors of red, blue, gray, brown, and sparkling white.

The tours itself takes you to all three levels of the caverns – from Mayor Preston’s Chamber in the upper section to the winding banks of the Underground River 180 feet below on the cavern floor. Along the Underground River, you will be dazzled by dramatical displays of formations reflected in the streams waters. You can also peer over Lover’s Leap, view the breathtaking Bridal Veil formation and stare in wonder at the dazzling formations of Entrance Hall.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes
Cost: Call for pricing (423) 878-2011
Website: bristolcaverns.com

6Tuckaleechee Caverns

Photo from Tuckaleechee Caverns website

Known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies” for their highest rating Cavern of the Eastern United States, Tuckaleechee Caverns of Townsend, TN offer the earth’s oldest mountain chain and estimated to be between twenty to thirty million years old, the Caverns are rich in history and lore in recent years as well. You will find the “Big Room” on one end of the tour that could almost fit a football stadium inside it. On the other half of the tour, you get to view “Silver Falls”. It falls 210 feet from top to bottom and the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern US. Millions of formations are viewed along the 1.25-mile round trip adventure, making for a truly unique experience.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes
Cost: $18 adults 12 and up, $8 children 5-11 and children 4 and under are free
Website: https://tuckaleecheecaverns.com/

7Ruby Falls

Photo – Ruby Falls Facebook Page

Ruby Falls is the nation’s tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Discovered in 1928, Leo Lambert and a team of excavators found a breathtaking waterfall deep within Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Lambert named the falls after his wife, Ruby, and opened the Chattanooga attraction to the public in 1929. Today, Ruby Falls welcomes over half a million visitors each year from around the world. It’s also close to a ton of other attractions on Mt. Lookout, so it’s easy to spend a whole day or weekend exploring the area.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes, several
Cost: $22 for adults 13 and up, $13 for children 3-12, 3 and under are free
Website: rubyfalls.com

8Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Photo from Raccoon Caverns tour

Raccoon Mountain Caverns consists of over 5.5 miles of underground passageways. While many caves have small areas of formation growth, Raccoon Mountain Caverns has countless, 100% natural formations and is exceptionally well preserved and considered to be one of the most geologically active caverns in the South.

The Crystal Palace Tour is a 45-55 minute guided walking tour through the first 1/4 mile of the cave. This section of the cave has been modified to include lights, pathways, steps, and handrails. Education is the focus of their tours and your guide will explain how caves form, provide a history of the cave, and point out a wide variety of formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, and much more, including rare shield and helictite formations! Guests also have a chance to view cave wildlife including bats and salamanders, as well as ancient fossils.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes
Cost: $18 for adults 13 and up, $11 for children 5-12, 5 and under are free
Website: raccoonmountain.com

9Forbidden Caverns

Photo from Forbidden Caverns tour

Forbidden Caverns, located in Sevierville, Tennessee is one of America’s most spectacular caverns. Visitors are provided with an entertaining and educational tour past sparkling formations, towering natural chimneys, numerous grottos and a crystal clear stream. Special lighting effects, a stereophonic sound presentation, and well-trained tour guides combine to make this a most enjoyable experience. The trails are well-lighted, with handrails at all necessary points.

Can you enter: yes
Is there a tour: yes
Cost: $16 for adults 13 and up, $10 for children 5-12, 4 and under are free

Website: Forbiddencavern.com

10Dunbar Cave

Photo courtesy of the TN State Parks website

Dunbar Cave is a remarkable prehistoric site, not just for Tennessee but for the entire Eastern Woodlands. Dunbar Cave has been used for thousands of years and is the site of significant prehistoric Mississippian Native American cave art dating to the 14th century. The park is 144-acres and is located in Clarksville, Tennessee.

For the Mississippian people that lived along the Red River in the 14th century CE, Dunbar Cave was a sacred place. Though the cave is a physical place, the Mississippians believed it to be an actual portal into the Underworld. The Mississippians left many drawings on the walls of the cave, some in charcoal, some carved into the limestone itself. While we do not know exactly what the drawings meant, the symbols hold sacred meanings even today for modern indigenous peoples of the southeastern U.S.

Today, these drawings are protected at Dunbar Cave State Park. During the cave tour season (May – September), you can experience the awe of these drawings for yourself.

Can you enter? Yes
Is there a tour? Yes
Cost: no cost
*Children 4 and under not allowed
Website: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/info/dunbar-cave

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