You may not realize that the U.S. is filled with hidden, mysterious caves. Several are part of the national or state parks, and they're worth the excursion. Whether you are a thrill-seeker looking for an adventurous exploration of a cave, or like the intimate, magical side, the United States has plenty to offer. Here are 10 of the most amazing caves in the U.S.
Mammoth Cave National Park — Brownsville, Kentucky
Formed over ten million years ago, with over 400 miles of cave passage, Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. Established as a national park in 1941, it was named after its size, not the woolly ancient animal. Explore the caves by taking one of the several tours offered, and above ground, you can camp, hike on the over 85 miles of trails, kayak on the Green and Nolin Rivers and more. Underground, you’ll see amazing sights like the Star Chamber that seems like you are looking at a starry night sky, not specks on the ceiling, Lovers Leap, which is lined with signatures of visitors from the past, or the famous Gothic Avenue, named for the formations that are similar to Gothic architecture.
Wind Cave National Park — Hot Springs, South Dakota
Due to changes in the atmospheric pressure in and out of the cave, the caves tend to “breathe,” or produce winds, hence the name of Wind Cave National Park. Filled with hundreds of passageways and rooms, some still being discovered, you’ll be amazed by this underground wonder. For thrill-seekers, there is the Wild Cave Tour, where you don hard hats and crawl through tight spaces, and for the less adventurous, there are an array of less strenuous tours available. (Please note, the Wild Cave Tour is not available in 2021.)
Kartchner Caverns State Park — Benson, Arizona
Discovered only less than 50 years ago, Kartchner Caverns was dedicated as a state park in 1999. It is home to one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites, measuring in at over 21 feet long, the world’s extensive formation of brushite moonmilk, plus the first reported occurrences of “turnip shields” and “birdsnest” needle quartz formations. Besides touring the caves, you can camp, hike and view wildlife. Kartchner has also been given an International Dark Sky Park Designation, meaning that there is minimal outdoor lighting to interfere with the view of the night sky, giving breathtaking views of the stars.
Carlsbad Caverns — New Mexico
Perhaps the most well-known cave in the U.S., Carlsbad Caverns is home to over 100 caves, with more believed to be discovered. The most recent room discovered was on Oct. 31, 2013, giving it the name “Halloween Hall.” You will be amazed by chambers like the Big Room, which spans over eight acres, and is the largest readily accessible cave chamber in North America. There are spots of the caverns you can explore on your own, or you can take a ranger guided tour, many of which require crawling. Please note, ranger guided tours are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.
Black Chasm Cavern — Volcano, California