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15 of the Best Caves in Alabama for Some Exciting Adventure

By | Last Updated : 9th June 2021

Alabama is a state blessed with natural wonders. From towering mountains to pristine lakes and waterfalls, you will find it all here. What’s more impressive is that the state also houses many fascinating caves, especially in its northern part, with a unique geology and rich history attached to each one of them. Besides exploring the marvelous rock formations and other features inside, you could even engage in camping, hiking, and wildlife watching in and around the surrounding areas of most of them. An experienced caver or a novice, knowing more about the caves the state features would for sure help you select which one would be your perfect pick.

Caves in Alabama

Caves in Northern Alabama

1. Cathedral Caverns State Park

Cathedral Caverns State Park in Northern Alabama

Known initially as Bats Cave, you will find Cathedral Caverns in Kennamer Cove. The structure resembles a cathedral giving the cave its name. Upon your entry, the massive entrance with a width and height of 125 feet and 26 feet is sure to leave you awestruck. You will be in for more surprise as you head inwards with the beautiful formations sure to elate you to the fullest. One such striking feature you would come across is the Goliath, absolutely justifying its name because of its gigantic size, being one of the world’s largest stalagmites.

Also, make sure not to miss out on the stalagmite forest, a frozen waterfall, and even the Mystery river, as mysterious as its name, flowing through the cave. With a 60°F inside temperature, the cave is worth visiting anytime of the year.

Other activities:  You can hike along the nearby trails in the Cathedral Caverns State Park, surrounding the cave. Do not miss out on gemstone mining, immensely popular among visitors, particularly the young crowd. To spend the night, camp in the primitive campsites available in the park premises.

Hours of operation: 9 am to 5 pm

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2. DeSoto Caverns

DeSoto Caverns in Northern Alabama

In north-central Alabama, the Appalachian Mountains are home to DeSoto Caverns, one of the most beautiful caves with a rich history, inhabited by prehistoric Indians. If interested in knowing more about the cave’s ancient inhabitants, alongside the features and formations it has, opt for a guided tour service. You could explore the entire cave in an hour on an average, and on your way do not miss seeing the stunning collections of the marbled stalagmites and stalactites.

Then there is the laser light, water, and sound show, that according to many is a delight to watch especially during Christmas. The gift shop close to the cave would for sure help you pick memorabilia as a token of your visit. 

Other activities: In the are surrounding the cave you could indulge in activities like water golfing, archery or even picnicking.

Hours of operation: 10 am to 5:30 pm

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3. Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge

Fern Cave in Northern Alabama

Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge sits on the western slopes of the Nat Mountains in northeastern Alabama.  Searching the entrances could be a mammoth task since the cave has five hidden ones, a combination of wet and dry. After managing a permit, a prerequisite for entering the cave as it stands on private property, get in only if you are an experienced caver, lest you could get lost, or even land in further danger.

What’s more interesting is that it is home to several gray and Indiana bats. More than 1.5 million bats hibernate here in winter, making it the largest colony of gray bats in the United States. In addition, there are many more species residing here.

Other activities: Besides taking a tour around the cave, one could even admire the natural beauty of the surroundings and indulge in hiking along the nearby trails or observe wildlife.

Hours of operation: Not recorded

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4. Manitou Cave

Manitou Cave in Northern Alabama

This cave, residing in the forested hillside of northeastern Alabama, has a fascinating history and geological formations. After crossing the metal and wooden bridges and the stairs that occupy the cave’s first part, you will come to the entrance. Upon flashing your torchlights on the cave walls and ceilings you would come across the Cherokee signatures and syllabary. Be careful not to touch the limestone walls. Walk further to see the chamber used for dancing on live music. All along, the trickling sound of the stream flowing inside the cave will soothe your ears.

You will frequently come across bats and salamanders hanging or crawling on the walls. Since the cave temperature is 56 °F throughout the year, be sure to wear thick or layered clothes before entering it.

You can only visit the cave by being a part of adventure tours offered by private companies.

Other activities:  After exploring the interiors, you can enjoy picnicking or watching wildlife while relaxing beside the creek.

Hours of operation: Not recorded

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5. Russell Cave National Monument

Russell Cave in Northern Alabama

The state’s third longest cave, Russell Cave National Monument, is near Bridgeport in the northeastern corner of Alabama. Once you reach here you will get to see the massive entrance that the Native Americans used as a sheltered place some 6550 years ago.

You would not be allowed inside the cave, but there is still a lot more to explore in the surrounding. The Gilbert H. Grosvenor Visitor Center situated in its vicinity would give you a scope to look at the unique museum exhibits. You may even opt for the documentary films shown here to get a more detailed insight into the lifestyle and culture of the prehistoric people.

To explore the cave shelter, you need to walk about 300 meters from the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Visitor Center. Take the guided tour services to understand better the cave shelter once inhabited by the tribes.

Other activities: Other than this, you can hike along the Backcountry and Nature trails located nearby. As you walk along, you would find the wildflowers, and dense forest on your way. The breathtaking view of the surrounding Montague Mountains, is sure to leave you in awe.

The North Alabama Birding Trail offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. If visiting the place in spring or autumn, you would be lucky to catch sight of the pretty songbirds.

Hours of operation: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

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6. Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge

Sauta Cave in Northern Alabama

This cave in northeastern Alabama is a dwelling place for endangered gray and Indiana bats. It has two entrances, but you can access none since the cave does not allow the public inside. The surrounding flora makes the site all the more beautiful.

Catch the spectacular sight of 250,000 bats coming out of the cave together, particularly at dawn from June to August. Make your wait for bat watching worthwhile by viewing the enchanting light show put up by the fireflies on the cave’s mouth. You may also witness other unique species in the surrounding.

Other activities: Other activities that you can enjoy here are wildlife watching and hiking.

Hours of operation: Sunrise to sunset (exact time unrecorded)

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7. Neversink Cave Reserve

Neversink Cave Reserve in Northern Alabama

This geological formation in northeastern Alabama attracts climbers to explore the wonders it has within it. It has a depth of 162 feet, while its opening has a width of 40 feet, the base is much wider (100 feet).

If you have vertical caving skills, all you need to do is acquire a permit. As you descend the Neversink Cave, you will see rare ferns all around and a splendid waterfall, prominently visible, especially after a rainfall. Don’t miss capturing the exceptional views from inside the cave.

Other activities:  Besides admiring the cave’s interior, you could even engage in nature viewing as you hike up the mountains to get here.

Hours of operation: Not recorded

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8. Tumbling Rock Cave

Tumbling Rock Cave in Northern Alabama

Tumbling Rock Cave is an ideal place for spelunking or cave exploration. Once you get to the spot after attaining a permit, you are sure to be spellbound by the cave opening surrounded by lush greenery. The cave stands massive, so if you do not mindfully observe the surroundings, there are high chances of getting lost in between.

Entering it, you will witness stalactites and stalagmites throughout the walls and ceiling. Of the many key attractions, the Elephant Feet is one of them, comprising two gigantic columns standing to a height of approximately 20ft. From here, if you keep to your right, you would head to the Topless Dome, a tall shaft of about 400 feet. You would even hear the sounds of water falling from the hole on the roof, indicating you have reached your destination.

 Another fascinating geological wonder is the Christmas tree, comprising a stalagmite replicating the tree’s shape. Unfortunately, navigation gets a little tricky from the Christmas tree onwards. One needs to squeeze and crawl through tight spaces to proceed further.

Other activities: You can also spend the night camping in the campsites situated near the cave premises.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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9. Stephens Gap

Stephens Gap in Northern Alabama

Half an hour drive from Huntsville will bring you to one of the most captivating caverns. There are two entrances to access the 143 feet vertical pit. The first one is for rappelling down, which requires vertical caving skills, while the rest can hike down the other entrance.

Mind your steps as the pathway is steep and slippery too. As you move further, a magnificent waterfall awaits you. To see it in full flow, come here after heavy rain. You can take some lovely pictures with the waterfall from the pedestal, positioned at the end of a ledge. But, again, be extremely cautious as it is about 50 feet above the cave bottom, and the ledge can be slippery. Don’t forget to acquire the permit before coming here.

Other activities: A hike of about 2 miles along a rocky trail will take you to the caves from the parking lot, and as you tread along, do a generous amount of sightseeing for visual retreat.

Hours of operation: Not recorded

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10. Three Caves

Three Caves in Northern Alabama

Just a few minutes away from downtown Huntsville sits Three Caves in a private property. It got its name from the three openings and was originally a limestone mine known as Hermitage Quarry. Till 2006, public access was allowed, with conducted tours helping visitors look at the several geological formations that eventually evolved here. However, rockfall issues were detected, particularly in the cave’s ceiling; hence it was closed since then, keeping the tourists’ safety in mind.

That does not mar your visit to the place in any way, though. Many concerts and events occur on the premises, the structure providing a unique backdrop. So don’t miss being a part of one and catching a glimpse of it.

Other activities: You can hike the two-mile-long Three Caves Loop to get a stunning view of it. In addition, treat your eyes to the scenic waterfalls, sinkholes, and natural springs along the trail.

Hours of operation: 7 am to 7 pm

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11. Rattlesnake Saloon Cave

Rattlesnake Saloon Cave in Northern Alabama

For a unique experience, you need to visit Rattlesnake Saloon Cave, located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Tuscumbia. Its opening is 300 feet tall and 100 feet wide and has lush greenery all around it. To get here, you would have to get into a ‘taxi,’ a pickup truck that rides you up the steep hill. The sight of a restaurant inside the cave is sure to surprise you. Another fascinating view is the magnificent waterfall flowing from the cave bluff. So don’t miss the opportunity to have a meal right beside the waterfall.

Other activities: Other than this, you can also take the pleasure of hiking and horse riding. You can also camp on site here or rent a cabin to spend the night.

Hours of operation:

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12. Dismals Canyon

Dismals Canyon in Northern Alabama

Dismals Canyon is another place where you’re going to have an enchanting experience. After crossing streams and bridges, you will find yourself standing in front of a beautiful cave entrance. As you enter you will be in absolute delight to see it lit up by the glow worms, resembling the twinkling stars in the night sky. A guided tour would definitely help you knowing and understanding every nook and corner of the cave better.

Other activities: Nature gazing, hiking, and camping are other activities you can enjoy here.

Hours of operation: 10 am to 5:30 pm

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13. Shelta Cave

Shelta Cave in Northern Alabama

Shelta Cave in Huntsville is about 2500 feet tall and features a unique underground ecosystem. It has three sinkholes and is home to diverse species, including shrimp, three beetles, two crayfish, and three anthropods. In addition, a fence encompassing the cave attracts multitudes of bats.

The cave comprised a bar and dance hall in the early 1900s. Now, the National Speleological Society manages it.

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Caves in Central Alabama

1. Rickwood Caverns State Park

Rickwood Caverns in Central Alabama

The massive network of caverns is the main focal point of the state park located near Warrior. Explore the natural wonders in it, including limestone formations aged about 260 million years, blind cavefish, and an underground pool.

Look around to give your eyes a treat with the colorful structures and flowstones. As you get inside, do take a glance at the fossils of marine life and shell fragments embedded on the cave walls and ceilings. The cave, having a temperature of 56-62 °F, allows year-round visits. A guide is mandatory for you to have access to the cave.

Other activities: Apart from the cave tour, you can also engage in gemstone mining, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and camping as the park provides for all of these. For added adventure, don’t miss hiking the Fossil Mountain Hiking Trail.

Hours of operation: 9 am to 5 pm

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2. Bangor Caves

Bangor Caves in Central Alabama

This limestone cave was once a popular nightspot, a speakeasy in America that featured a bar, an orchestra stand, and a dancing floor. The cave has three entrances, one of which was later created. The cave on a private property remains abandoned since a major fire struck it in 1915. Though visitors went there even after that, due to damage on the walls mainly because of vandalism it remains closed for an indefinite period.

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TOP PICKS

Best Underground Caves: DeSotto Caves, Dismals Canyon, Cathedral Caverns State Park

Best Caves with Waterfalls: Neversink Cave Reserve, Stephens Gap, Rattlesnake Saloon Cave

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