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10 Of the Best Tennessee Caves to Visit at least Once

By | Last Updated: 13th January 2024

The state of Tennessee ranks above most other states in the number of caves it houses, being over 10,000 as per the records of the Tennessee Cave Survey.  Each of them offers a beauteous view with the several ornamental decorations in the form of stalactites and stalagmites, being the key attractions. Every cave has a story to tell, and a survey round the place in a boat or on foot with a guide’s help would for sure enlighten you on the tales related to them.

Caves in Tennessee

Caves in Eastern Tennessee

1. Ruby Caves, Chattanooga

Ruby Falls Best Caves in Tennessee

Ruby Falls Cave in Tennessee Ruby Falls Caves to Visit in Tennessee

The chief attraction of the cave is the waterfall of the same name. Being the tallest underground waterfalls of America, this is actually multiple cascades nestled safely inside the Lookout Mountain. The 1,120 ft long water stream surrenders to the cave pool, situated at the base of the falls.

Since its accidental discovery in 1928, the person in charge, Leo Lambert, named the falls after his wife Ruby and made the cave and the falls accessible for the public from the following year.

Ruby Falls Cave, initially did not have any natural way out or in, so the digging and excavation for commercial purposes started under Lambert’s supervision.

The nearby Lookout Mountain Cave and Ruby Falls Cave were not naturally or geologically connected. After the digging and all, they were made to connect with each other and form the Lookout Mountain Caverns.

Opening Time: 08:00 am -08:00 pm

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2. Forbidden Caverns, Sevierville

Forbidden Caverns Best in Tennessee

Forbidden Caverns of Tennessee Forbidden Caverns in Tennessee

With the close association of the English Mountain and the Great Smokey Mountains, this cave bears testimony of the change of civilizations. From sheltering the Cherokee people to welcoming moonshiners who used the cave for conducting operations, the place has witnessed it all. It is no less than a historical geological formation with grottoes, water streams, and pools.

Open for the public since 1967, one of its significant attractions is the light and music shows for amusing the guests. The temperature inside is around 58°F, being somewhat chilly

Conducted tours help visitors go to prominent spots like the “Grotto of the Dead” and “Grotto of Evil Spirits,” acquainting them with the legends and myths associated with the cavern. Prohibition remains on flash photography within the cave premises.

Opening Time: 10 am – 5 pm

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3. Tuckaleechee Caverns, Townsend

Tuckaleechee Caverns in Tennessee

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This is also an amalgamation of multiple caves, laden with stalagmites formations all around. Opened in 1953, under the ownership of Bill Vananda and Harry Myers, this cave system is approximately 30 million years old. In the past, it housed the Cherokee tribes. Later, in the 19th century, the cave served as a workstation for women to sew and perform certain household chores that were portable.

The major attractions are the 210 ft. long underground two-tiered waterfall named “Silver Falls” and a football stadium-like huge room known as the “Big Room.” The entire tour of the cave takes around  2 hours on an average.

Opening Time: March to November 10:00 am – 05:00 pm; April to October 10:00 am – 06:00 pm

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4. Raccoon Mountain Caverns, Chattanooga

Raccoon Mountain Caverns in Tennessee

Raccoon Mountain Caverns Best in Tennessee Raccoon Mountain Caverns in Tennessee to Visit

Discovered by Leo Lambert of the Ruby Caves fame, this is a notable spacious cave system that operates hour-long tours.

One of the mains is the Crystal Palace Tour that covers around the one-fourth of the entire cave. Formations like soda straws, stalagmites, stalactites, are visible throughout.

Initially called Tennessee Caverns by Lambert, its name eventually changed to Crystal City Caves, until it got its final name, the Raccoon Mountain Caverns during the 1970s. Some unique spiders and salamander species are also found here.

The adjacent area also houses a campground, equipped with cabins, primitive tent sites, and RVs.

Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 05:00 pm

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5. Bristol Caverns, Bristol

Bristol Caverns in Tennessee

Bristol Caverns Best in Tennessee Bristol Caverns Best in Tennessee to Visit

Existing for around 400 million years, sheltering the natives in the past from natural calamity and man-made disputes, this is a vast cavern of northeast Tennessee. The paths are well guarded and illuminated with the various lights, accentuating the mystery of the caves to a dramatic extent.

There is the Underground River with massive formations, equipped with several columns, arches, and rooms. Some of the exciting points of your tour will be the Lover’s Leap and the Bridal Veil. The Entrance Hall is another fantastic spot, compelling you to get bewildered at its dazzling formations adorning it.

To keep a memory of your visit here, get souvenir items from the gift shops in the vicinity.

Opening Hours: March 15th to October 31st – 09:00 am – 05:00 pm; November 1st to March 14th -10:00 am – 04:00 pm. Throughout the year, all Sundays the cave opens at 12:30 pm.

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6. Craighead Caverns, Sweetwater- Madisonville

Craighead Caverns in Tennessee

Craighead Caverns Best in Tennessee

The complex cave, situated close to the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee, is mostly known for sheltering the Lost Sea. The sea discovered by a teenage boy named Ben Sands, holds the record of being America’s largest  and the world’s second largest underground lake after Namibia’s Dragon’s Breath Cave.

The  stalactites and stalagmites adorning the cave, alongside a waterfall, are  a must-see when you visit here.

Do not miss out the boat ride across the lake, and as you tour around keep asking your guide about the place’s  colorful history.

Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 06:00 pm

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Caves in Middle Tennessee

7. Cumberland Caverns, McMinnville

Cumberland Caverns to Visit in Tennessee

Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee Cumberland Caverns in Best Tennessee

The second-longest cave of the state, located in middle Tennessee, was formerly known as Higgenbotham Cave, named after the discoverer.

The cave system nurtures underground waterfalls, 32 miles of passageways, and multiple tours with different difficulty modes.

The typical formation of stalactites and stalagmites and hiking experiences along with light shows like “Creation Pageant”, makes the cave a sought-after recreational spot. The conducted tours could be overnight, in the daytime, or just the weekend. As a show cave, this claims to be the largest in Tennessee.

Initially, the monthly music event Bluegrass Underground was held in the cave’s Volcano Room. Presently, concerts of the Cumberland Caverns Live is organized here.

Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 05:00 pm

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8. Dunbar Cave, Clarksville

Dunbar Cave Best in Tennessee

Dunbar Cave to Visit in Tennessee Dunbar Caves in Tennessee

The 144 acres of the spacious place is considered to be housing the Mississippi Native American people for a long time. Those native people also enhanced the cave with their wall art during their stay, generations after generations. Due to the massive space and varied geology, people used to regard this place as the doorway or gateway to the Underworld. Initially the cave held musical concerts. Presently, a guide tour would help you get a clear insight of the cave and the surroundings.

Opening Hours: May-August 08:00 am – 04:30 pm

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9. Blue Spring Cave, Sparta

Blue Spring Cave Best in Tennessee

Blue Spring Cave in Tennessee Blue Spring Cave Tennessee to Visit

The longest cave of the state, and ninth-longest in the U.S. this is a privately-owned laden with stone formations.

This cave bears the footprint of the jaguars belonging to the Ice Age era weighing between 450 and 500 pounds on an average.

The place seems embedded with pretty formations including columns and private straws. A certain portion of the cave is a little challenging to survey, and some visitor have mentioned their experience of crawling around to explore the passages.

Opening Hours: Always, but entry on permission

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10. Bell Witch Cave, Adams

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee to Visit

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee Bell Witch Cave Best in Tennessee

This privately-owned cave reaches a length of 490 ft. The Bell Witch’s tale is associated with the cave, known to haunt the Bell family, the property owners, where the cave lies at present.

Several stories about Bell witch’s presence do the rounds, entertaining the tourists wholesomely.

To take a trip around the cave and cherish haunted adventures, rent a canoe mostly available six days a week, from May – September.

Opening Hours: 10:00 am- 05:00 pm

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Best Caves with Waterfalls: Ruby Caves, Tuckaleechee Caverns, Cumberland Caverns

Best Underground Caves: Forbidden Caverns, Cumberland Caverns, Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Best Caves for Kayaking: Bell Witch Cave, Craighead Caverns, Cumberland Caverns

Apart from this, there is Cherokee Caverns in the Knoxville area that plays Christmas music during the festive time. It is also open for a few days of the year.

Tennessee’s caves are truly beautiful, concealing and revealing the mystery of the earth from time immemorial. These caves also have a wide variety of wildlife protected inside them. Since, it is not possible for individuals to cover all the caves of the state, you can check out these 10 as they are undoubtedly the best from the lot.

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