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14 of the Best Caves in Idaho

By | Last Updated: 13th December 2022

Among the many spectacular geological wonders like mountains and canyons, Idaho also features caves of different types. The most common ones accessible by the public are lava tubes formed by years of volcanic activity and limestone caves used by ancient humans to shelter or store food. Though some are easily accessible, others require a bumpy ride to reach the secluded spot. No matter their location, visiting each of these caves is undoubtedly worth it for a breathtaking experience.

Caves in Idaho

1. Minnetonka Cave

Minnetonka Cave in Idaho

One of the state’s largest and most popular Minnetonka Cave is in the scenic St. Charles Canyon in southern Idaho. It is also a hibernating place for five different species of bats. With the help of a guide, you will be able to see and know about the cave and its spectacular formations, including stalagmites and stalactites inside nine chambers. However, be prepared to descend over 400 steps before accessing them. Also, as the cave temperature remains a constant 40°F throughout the year, be sure to wear a jacket.

Things to do around here: After the exploration, you can head to the nearby Bear Lake to enjoy additional activities like swimming, fishing, boating, sailing, water skiing, and camping.

Hours of operation: 10 am to 5:30 pm

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2. Hidden Mouth Cave

Hidden Mouth Cave in Idaho

Hiking a short but steep trail will bring you to this remote cave in Mackay. Don’t be fooled by its small size, as once you get inside, three significant chambers await to be explored. The natives earlier used them as a sheltered place. By flashing lights on the cave walls, you might even see drawings and other bits of evidence proving their presence thousands of years ago.

Things to do around here: Many trails traverse through the adjoining areas where you can enjoy hiking.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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3. Niter Ice Cave

Niter Ice Cave in Idaho

This roadside attraction is definitely worth a stop if traveling on State Road 34. It’s a lava tube, earlier used by early settlers and Native Americans to preserve food. A gradual walkway with handrails will lead you to the cave’s interiors from the entrance. Remember to bring your flashlights as it’s pitch dark inside. Wearing a jacket and sturdy shoes is advisable as it is pretty cold and slippery too.

Things to do around here: You can picnic with your family while admiring the surrounding scenery.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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4. Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave in Idaho

Known as the world’s largest lava tubes open to the public, Mammoth Cave lies eight miles north of Shoshone. A half-mile self-guided tour along the established trail will allow you to witness the cave interiors that Native Americans used as shelter and to store food. You would be provided lanterns by the proprietor at the entrance to guide you all along. Do bring some flashlights along too, as capturing photos with just the lanterns would be quite impossible. It is also recommended to carry a light jacket as the temperature inside is a constant 41°F.

Things to do around here: You can head to the adjacent Shoshone Bird Museum of Natural History after your exploration. Here you will be able to see various antique artifacts and taxidermy exhibits. In addition, the area also has many peacocks wandering about that you can enjoy watching.

Hours of operation: 9 am to 6 pm

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5. Shoshone Ice Cave

Shoshone Ice Cave in Idaho

Shoshone Ice Cave is a large lava tube filled with stunning ice formations. A one-hour guided tour will take you down to the floor, about 100 feet from the earth’s surface. You will learn about its volcanic history and geological wonders while witnessing the various points of interest. The cave is well-lit and pretty cool. Carrying a jacket and wearing hiking shoes is highly advisable. Do keep in mind that tours are available only from 1st May through 30th September.

Things to do around here: After exploring the cave, you can check out the museum featuring unique artifacts and rock collections. In addition, there’s a gift shop and a picnic area where you can where you can purchase souvenirs and enjoy your meals.

Hours of operation: 10 am to 6 pm

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6. Wilson-Butte Cave

Wilson-Butte Cave in Idaho

This cave is in the middle of the volcanic Snake River Plain near Jerome. Many pieces of evidence suggest human existence here for thousands of years. With a small entrance and cool interiors all year long, it is easy to understand why ancient humans preferred using the cave as their shelter place. If planning to visit this isolated spot, do be prepared for a bumpy drive along a dirt cave.

Things to do around here: Don’t miss checking out the nearby Shoshone Falls and Twin Falls, flowing into the Snake River.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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7. Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon in Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in south-central Idaho is home to various volcanic wonders and over 500 caves. These include lava tubes, fissure caves, and weathering caves. You can take the Cave Trail to access significant lava tubes like Indian Tunnel, Boy Scout, and Beauty Cave. Visiting each of them via winding pathways and mazes will give you a different experience.

Things to do around here: You can stay overnight here in one of the many campgrounds dotting the preserve area and spend time exploring.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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8. Darby Wind and Ice Caves

Darby Wind and Ice Caves in Idaho

A half-hour drive from Driggs will lead you to Darby Wind and Ice Caves in eastern Idaho. Once you reach here, you will have to hike a moderately strenuous trail to access them. Upon entering the Wind Caves after a rock scramble, you will find a small passageway that leads you to its depths. As you continue exploring it, you will experience cold wind blowing, due to which the cave gets its name.

Even though this passageway connects to Ice Cave, it is better not to go further if you aren’t an experienced spelunker. It gets narrower to the point that you will have to squeeze and crawl on your stomach through tight passageways for about 0.75 miles. Instead, you can return to the trail and continue hiking for less than a mile along the South Fork of Darby Canyon. The cave’s opening is hidden and requires scrambling over a pile of rocks and climbing over rock ledges to access it. There are some impressive ice formations in its depth that can be explored with the help of technical caving techniques.

Things to do around here: The scenery of the surrounding wilderness is quite enchanting and ideal for enjoying a picnic.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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9. Paris Ice Caves

Paris Ice Caves in Idaho

Paris Canyon features an ice cave that lies close to Garden City in Utah. The ideal time to visit it is late summer or early fall, when you will not have to worry much about slippery and wet paths. Also, as the water dries out during this time, you can drive and park your vehicle near the cave’s entrance. From here, a trail gradually descends to the base, where you will be passing along a 50-foot chamber with an open ceiling and tight passageways.

Things to do around here: Within the small city of Paris, you can visit a museum and a tabernacle after you’ve completed exploring the cave.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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10. Kuna Cave

Kuna Cave in Idaho

This lesser-known cave is in the middle of public BLM land, accessed by a drive off the Black Cat Road along an unpaved path. Once you reach the site, you can spot a steel ladder descending to the cave’s base. Though the cave walls are covered with graffiti, exploring the interiors is worth the experience. Do bring a flashlight and cover your face with a mask as it is pretty dusty inside.

Things to do around here: If you have enough time left, you can head to other attractions in the city of Kuna. Some of them worth mentioning are Swan Falls, Indian Creek, and Dedication Creek Overlook.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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11. Clay Caves

Clay Caves in Idaho

Clay Caves are a network of lava tubes situated at a remote position that you can access by a 30-minute drive from Twin Falls. From the entrance, a path leads to its base. As you explore its depths, the broad tunnels gradually narrow down. Be sure to not go further into its dark depths, lest you could lose your way.

Things to do around here: You’ll find several places to explore if you head to the city of Twin Falls. Some include the Historical Society Museum, Perrine Bridge, and Snake River Valley.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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12. Papoose Cave

Papoose Cave in Idaho

Papoose Cave lies in the eastern part of the secluded and rarely visited Papoose Mountain. You’ll find it as you drive just off the US Forest Service Road, 517. Many bats hibernate here during the winter season. You can explore the several large chambers inside, having a temperature of about 40°F throughout the year.

The cave is not an ideal place for the inexperienced due to its inhabitable environment. However, if you are an experienced spelunker and planning a visit here, do keep in mind to attain permits from the local Forest Service office beforehand.

Things to do around here: You can also explore the mountain’s other caverns and caves.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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13. Tea Kettle Cave

Tea Kettle Cave in Idaho

Though the road leading to Tea Kettle Cave is rough, it is worth visiting for an incredible experience. You will have to bring a high clearance vehicle to access its remote location. Once you reach it, witnessing its kettle-like shape will make you understand why it has been named so. You will have to descend its spout to get down to its base. However, it can be pretty slippery, and wearing a pair of sturdy shoes is advisable. You can explore and admire the lava formations here. The beautiful ferns growing amidst a pile of rocks are a treat to the eye. Do make sure not to step on them and allow them to grow.

Things to do around here: For an extended adventure, you can head to Little City of Rocks to enjoy a hike. If coming to the caves in late spring, you may even plan a visit to Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area. It is about 54 miles away and boasts lovely blooming Camas Lilies.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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14. Owl Cave

Owl Cave in Idaho

Owl Cave is privately owned, located in the desert region west of Idaho Falls. It was first excavated in 1965 and has continued since then. Many things have been found in different layers inside the cave, including the remains from bison, camel, dire wolf, and even a Columbian Mammoth, which dates back to about 14,000 years. In addition, the excavation of artifacts like a doll’s head and interesting Folsom’s point, a sharp form of knapped stone used as a weapon, clearly proves early humans’ existence. Though the cave is not permissible for public access, you can plan to visit the Museum of Idaho to know more about these bits of interesting evidence.


Best Underground Caves: Minnetonka Cave, Shoshone Ice Cave, Tea Kettle Cave

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