Attractions

5 Must-Explore Caves in Tennessee

There are over 10,000 caves in Tennessee, many of them feature a subterranean underworld with lost seas, magical waterfalls, cave art from hundreds of years ago, and interesting views.

From caves that require strenuous hikes to easy-to-access caverns with live music, the caves in TN are definitely a must-visit if you’re planning a trip going here.

5 Caves in Tennessee You Should Visit

However, it’s pretty challenging to pick from thousands of amazing caverns in Tennessee.

But if you’re looking for just 1 or 2, make sure you visit at least one from the list below:

1. Ruby Falls Caves and Waterfall

Tennessee cave with waterfall
Photo Credit: O En
  • Location: Chattanooga, TN 37409
  • Fees: The cave walk to Ruby falls tour tickets range from $13.95 (for kids 3 to 12 years old) to $24.95 for adults. Kids age 2 and under go in free. Other tours are available starting at $39.95. Tickets are only sold online.
  • Guest info: Open daily from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, except on December 25.

If you’re looking for the best caves in Tennessee with waterfalls, the Ruby Caves is definitely the first thing that comes to mind.

The main attraction of the cave isn’t formations or the thrill of being underground. The goal is to reach Ruby Falls, the 145-foot-tall underground waterfall inside a limestone cavern.

Ruby Falls is the tallest underground waterfall in America. It was discovered accidentally in 1928 by Leo Lambert (the person in charge of the area) who then named the falls after his wife Ruby. Since the discovery, he made the cave and falls accessible to the public by 1929.

Located in Lookout Mountain in Hamilton County, Ruby Caves can be accessed with a guided tour of the cave. The main tour ends at the base of the falls, which is set up with a stunning light show to showcase the gallons of water (about 1,120 feet-long water stream) cascading over the steep edge.

If you’re touring the cave with adults, you can embark on the lantern tour for a different kind of adventure beyond 9 pm. It’s a once-in-a-life experience.

Ruby Caves also has on-site dining, a shop, and a playground.

2. Cumberland Caverns

best caves in TN with band underground
Photo Credit: Gamma Man

Cumberland Caverns is America’s second-largest cave (next to Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave).

Formerly known as Higgenbotham Cave, Cumberland Caverns is located in the middle Tennessee city of McMinnville. It is a massive 32-mile cave with underground passageways, an underground waterfall, and formations of stalagmites and stalactites all over.

Cumberland Caverns offers daily daytime and overnight caving tours. The place divided the tours into easy, moderate, and extreme, so you can meet your expectations and match your skill level (and still get to enjoy the cave’s impressive ecosystem).

Aside from the natural attractions found here, Cumberland Caverns is also one of the few caves in the country that hosts live music underground. This cave is home to Bluegrass Underground, a popular television music show and monthly music event featuring bluegrass and folk artists playing at the stunning Volcano Room.

3. Tuckaleechee Caverns

caverns in Tennesee
Photo Credit: j33pman
  • Location: 825 Cavern Rd, Townsend, TN 37882
  • Fees: Tickets for kids ages 5 to 11 is $10 and $22 for adults (plus tax). Kids 4-year-olds and under go in free.
  • Guest info: The Tuckaleechee Caverns of Townsend is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm or 6 pm (depending on the season). Check the site for specific schedules.

Tuckaleechee Caverns is known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies.”

The Tuckaleechee Caverns first welcomed guests in 1931, closed during the Depression period, and reopened by owners Tuckaleechee Caverns in 1953. Since then, the cave has been opened to the public and continues to give tours 365 days per year.

Estimated to be between 20 and 30 million years old, Tuckaleechee Caverns is known to have housed the Cherokee tribes.

Tuckaleechee Caverns is actually a group of multiple caves, all of which feature hundreds of stalagmites formations. People go here mostly to view the 210-foot-long underground waterfall named Silver Falls and experience the massiveness of the Big Room (a room so massive that can it fit an entire football stadium).

Today, Tuckaleechee Caverns welcomes an average of 50,000 visitors each year. The entire tour of the cave takes around 2 hours.

4. Dunbar Cave

caves in TN
Photo Credit: Dunbar Cave State Park FB

Located just outside of Nashville, the town of Clarksville is home to Dunbar Cave State Park where people visit to reach the interesting Dunbar cave.

Dunbar Cave itself is one of the largest caves in Tennessee at 8 miles long. This cave system features 144 acres of underground space that is considered to have been the home of Mississippi Native American people for a long time (the art inside the caves showcases their culture and religious beliefs).

Visitors can choose to explore 3 miles of hiking trails and cave tours (or both) when visiting Dunbar Cave State Park. The guided tour opens in May yearly, but reservations get filled out quickly.

If you’re traveling with kids, know that Dunbar Cave State Park doesn’t allow kids aged four and under inside the cave. Plus, you’ll need to have your own hand-held flashlight when joining the tour.

5. The Lost Sea Adventure

best caves in Tennessee - caves with underground river
Photo Credit kreg.steppe
  • Location: 140 Lost Sea Rd, Sweetwater, TN 37874
  • Fees: Ticket prices start at $14.95 for kids aged 4 to 12, while children 3 and under go in for free. Adult pricing is $24.95 per person.
  • Guest info: Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (to 8 pm) depending on the month of your visit. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

One of the best caves in Tennessee with underground lakes is found in Sweetwater, TN. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest underground lake in the United States.

The Lost Sea Adventure is unique because the attraction focuses on the “lost lake” instead of the cave you pass to get there. But the view from start to finish is breathtaking nonetheless.

The Lost Sea tour begins with a guided walking tour of the caverns of about 3/4 of a mile. It can be pretty steep and sloping, so be careful. The path ends with a guided boat tour that leads you to over 30 acres of the underground lake.

Throughout the tour, which takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes, you’ll learn about the history of the lake, geological facts relating to the formations you see around the cave, and other interesting trivia.

Lost Sea Adventure also has a gift shop, Cavern Kitchen, and a nature trail above ground.

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Beyond the Caves in Tennessee

Exploring caves can be addicting. You’d want to experience more of the jaw-dropping views, alien-like underworld vibe, and formations you can’t find “above ground.”

If you can relate, don’t fret. Many states in the country have caves just waiting to be explored. Here are guides for some of the caves and caverns I can recommend:

For those exploring Tennessee much longer, mix and match attractions from my guide on TN waterfalls, lakes in Tennessee, camping in TN, and the Tennessee whiskey trail.

Go Out and Explore