When I think of adventures, some of the first things that come to mind are dazzling swords fights and dragons and a lot of traveling on horse or by foot. Another thing that comes to mind for me are caves and caverns. If our favorite main characters aren’t sleeping out under the stars, caves usually turn into a safe place to stay to get out of the rain or hide out… as long as there isn’t a sleeping bear or dragon living inside of it.
While the caverns that are open to the public aren’t ones that you can stay the night in (usually), they still provide an amazing opportunity to explore a breathtaking environment that you don’t see all of the time. They are one of my favorite “real-life” adventures. So, here is a list of some of my favorite caverns in Texas – and one outside of it – that I recommend checking out for a future adventure.
Inner Space Caverns
Located in Georgetown, Inner Space Caverns was first discovered in 1963. It is estimated to be between 20-25 million years old – and was made when water passed through Edwards limestone.
Today, it offers a variety of different tours: adventure tour, hidden passages tour, wild cave tour, and the ice age tour. Since this one is the closest to home, I have been a few times to go on the adventure tour, which is a one-mile walk and takes about an hour to complete.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
The Longhorn Cavern State Park is located in Burnet, which is 15-20 minutes away from Marble Falls and Sweet Berry Farm (which is a fun stop for strawberry picking in the spring and pumpkin picking in the fall). Longhorn Cavern has a rich history that includes being discovered by Comanche Indians, being used for Confederate war storage, speakeasy parties, and more – and I definitely recommend reading more into it.
Longhorn Cavern offers two tours: the cavern walking tour and the wild cave tour. The cavern walking tour covers 1.1 miles and takes about an hour and a half to complete.
Natural Bridge Caverns
The Natural Bridge Caverns, located in San Antonio, are another favorite of mine (and not just because all of the giraffes next door at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch). The caverns opened July 3, 1964 to the public, several years after four students from St. Mary’s University obtained permission to explore the area and discovered two miles of the cavern.
There are several different tours that visitors can go on: Discovery Tour, Hidden Passages Tour, a Combo Tour, Adventure Tours, and private VIP tours. If you take the Discovery Tour, be prepared for about an hour of walking 3/4 of a mile (including stairs).
Caverns of Sonora
The Caverns of Sonora are a little further out (about 3.5 hours west of Austin), so it definitely warrants a day trip. The caverns, known for their beautiful butterfly formation, was discovered in the early 1900s, and originally opened up to the public in 1960.
The Caverns of Sonora has one public tour: the Crystal Palace Tour. They also offer private group tours. The Crystal Palace Tour lasts almost two hours and covers almost two miles of the caverns.
Another good side adventure if you have the time: about an hour away from the caverns is Fort McKavett, which houses the remains of a military post from the Texas Indian Wars in 1850-1875.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns is the one out-of-state destination that I wanted to make sure to include, as the caverns are one of my favorite family vacation memories (outside of Disney, of course!). Located in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the caverns features more than 100 caves that were formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the limestone in the area. They are estimated to be over 250 million years old!
There are a few options that visitors can choose between when exploring the cave. There are two trails for exploring the cavern at your own pace. They also have ranger-guided tours, though only one of those is open at this moment in time. Whichever you select, make sure to make reservations ahead of time as they are required in order to enter the caverns.
Cave Exploration Tips
- Don’t touch cave formations! The oil on our hands can destroy the formations and stop them from growing. They can also be very delicate and break easily when touched.
- Wear closed-toed shoes with a good grip! You’ll be walking over uneven ground that can be wet from water in the caverns.
- Dress comfortably! Caverns tend to stay pretty cool around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Photographs are usually allowed, but make sure not to use flash photography if you are taking photos of any animals that you might see (such as bats). You don’t want to disturb them or scare them!
Have you explored any caverns before? Let me know your favorites down in the comments below!