Who’s up for some Texas-style spelunking?
If you’re looking for something interesting and new to do, maybe it’s time you stop looking above ground for some ideas and check out what’s going on beneath the surface…literally. Texas has many different caves that are open to the public, and walking through one is a fascinating experience whether you’re a kid or an adult.
Once you start visiting a cave or two, you’ll realize how different they can be from one another, each showcasing a unique arrangement of chambers and formations. Here are some of the coolest caves in Texas to get your underground adventures going. How many caves can you check off the list?
1. Natural Bridge Caverns
Outside of San Antonio, Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the most famous caves in the whole state, if not the most famous. Considered the largest known commercial caverns in Texas, they offer an assortment of tours. If you just want the standard tour through the cave highlights, go for the Discovery Tour. If you want something a little different, try the Hidden Passages or Adventure Tours — this one requires you to really get down and dirty so be prepared!
Aside from the cave itself, a whole entertainment complex has been built up on the surface with zip rails, a ropes course, a maze, and more. It’s a pretty different scene here than what it was back in 1960 when a group of college students got permission from the landowners to lead expeditions into the passages.
Related Read: 5 Must-Do Scenic Train Rides in Texas
2. Cave Without a Name
It’s not that someone just didn’t bother to make a name for this cave, which you can find over in Boerne. Designated as a National Natural Landmark, it really is officially named “Cave Without a Name.” The story goes that when the cave was being developed for public visitation decades ago (it opened in 1939), they held a naming contest. Supposedly one young boy said the cave was too pretty to have a name and thus his suggestion ended up winning.
Just how pretty is it, you ask? So pretty that some people hold weddings and concerts inside one of the chambers called The Queen’s Throne Room. Reservations are required to join a tour, which lasts around one hour long and takes you through six formation rooms. You should definitely keep an eye on the calendar for their musical performances too since it’s not every day you can say you listened to a string quartet underground.
3. Caverns of Sonora
If you find yourself driving down I-10 on the way to or from West Texas, you can make a nice road trip stop at Caverns of Sonora. While people were said to have been exploring this cave back in the early 1920s, it wasn’t until 1959 that it started being developed. Officially opening to the public in 1960, this cave offers guided walking tours that take about 1 hour and 45 minutes and wind through nearly two miles of passages.
Caverns of Sonora are a little bit warmer than some other caves you may have visited with the temperature sitting at 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 98% humidity so dress appropriately. If you happen to have your dog with you, know that they’re not allowed to come into the cave but they do have on-site kennels you can use while you’re touring down below.
Related Read: 10 Romantic Cabins in Texas for Quiet Weekends Away
4. Inner Space Cavern
Inner Space Cavern lies just north of Austin, right off of I-35. The highway part is important because that’s actually how the cavern was discovered. In 1963, a Texas Highway Department team was here drilling and found the place that was hidden for thousands of years. Three years later, it opened to visitors.
There are a few different tours you can join here, depending on your interests. The standard Adventure Tour goes through the biggest and most beautiful rooms. Then, there’s the Hidden Passages Tour lets you explore more rugged areas by flashlight. For something off the beaten path, there’s the Wild Cave Tour where you’ll have to squeeze, crawl, and climb. Before you leave, check out Inner Space Caverns’ Saber Tooth zip ride, or let your little ones pan for gemstones and fossils.
5. Longhorn Cavern State Park
West of Austin close to Burnet, Longhorn Cavern State Park has quite a colorful history. In the past, the Comanche, the Confederate Army, and outlaws are all said to have made use of the cave. Interestingly, one of the chambers was even transformed into a dance hall and restaurant during the 1920s and 1930s if you can believe it, and soon after the whole place was opened for public visitation.
You have two options when visiting: You can either join the Cavern Walking Tour or the Wild Cave Tour. The former is offered 364 days a year and is the classic 90-minute option. The latter is for adventure seekers who are up for climbing and crawling for two to three hours in an undeveloped portion of the cave.
Related Read: 15 Best Texas Water Parks to Cool Down & Get Wild
6. Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Whenever you’re in West Texas, consider making a trip to Kickapoo Cavern State Park in Brackettville. The park actually has 20 caves, but the two biggest ones are Kickapoo Cavern and Stuart Bat Cave. Please don’t try and go exploring them on your own though. It’s not allowed, and you can easily make a reservation to join one of the Saturday guided cave tours. The tours last around three hours and because the cave is undeveloped, it can require a bit more physical exertion than some of these other show caves.
Conveniently, Kickapoo Cavern State Park does offer overnight camping for tents and RVs so you can spend the touring the place, rest up in the area, and then hit the road again.
7. Cascade Caverns
Just outside of Boerne, Cascade Caverns offers one-hour-long tours through its depths. The temperature remains at a cool 64 degrees Fahrenheit, so even if it’s the height of summer, you’ll be able to enjoy your outing here. You may even prefer to come in the summer since that’s the season they offer their Adventure Tour, a three to four-hour long spelunking tour complete with helmets and flashlights. If you really love the idea of journeying through a cave by flashlight, then go for Evening Flashlight Tour. They only use flashlights and candles on that one, giving you a better sense of how dark the cave is.
When you think of cave wildlife, you may just think of bats, but Cascade Caverns actually has a special species of salamander living in it (aptly named the Cascade Cavern Salamander) among other frogs and insects.
Related Read: 13 Awesome Things to Do in Lubbock, Texas
8. Bracken Cave
Bracken Cave is different from the other caves on this list as it’s not about exploring the inside of it but witnessing what comes out of it. That sounds spooky, but it’s really quite amazing. Bracken Cave is home to the world’s largest bat colony. So how large is large? There are over 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats that live here. Every night in the summer, the bats pour out of the cave in an incredible swarm to go feed.
If you want to see the action for yourself, you’ll have to make an advanced reservation since the cave is a sensitive area located on private property. Most of the viewings are reserved for members of Bat Conservation International, which you can join, but you can check their schedule to find the occasional general public viewing.
9. Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area
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Not too far away from Kickapoo Cavern State Park, Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area offers another opportunity to watch a massive bat colony emerge from a cavern for its food hunt. This is wildlife, not some amusement park show, so there’s no guarantee about what time these Mexican free-tailed bats will come out or whether they’ll come out at all. But, you can give it a shot by joining one of the bat flight tours running May through October.
Wondering where this place gets its name? It’s because it’s a 50-foot wide shaft that leads into a cavern that’s over 320 feet and 350 feet. Now that’s definitely not something you’d want to accidentally fall into.
Related Read: 10 Fun Outdoor Activities in San Antonio, Texas
10. Wonder World Cave & Adventure Park
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Over in San Marcos, there’s Wonder World Cave & Adventure Park. The cave highlighted its name was discovered in 1893 and then in 1903, it became a tourist attraction with visitors paying 10 cents to go on a candlelit guided tour. That history is why you’ll see it marketed as the first commercial show cave open in Texas.
You’ll see more than the cave on one of their guided tours. The two-hour-long trek also includes a visit to the 120-foot observation tower, a stop at the anti-gravity house, and a train ride through the wildlife park (you can get animal feed to give the wildlife along the way). For more fun, play some games in the arcade room, or have your kids try their hand at some “gem mining.”
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Seen in: Texas