5 Tennessee Cave Adventures

The Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, TN. Photo by Flickr user RNRobert.

Did you know that Tennessee has more than 8,600 known caves? That’s more than any other state in the U.S. We’ve seen signs to different caving adventures in the Smokies, but haven’t ever visited any. Today, I thought we’d take a look at the industry in Tennessee. On Wednesday, I’ll be back with some information on caving in general — tips, laws and wildlife.

We’re excited to visit Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend on our next trip to the Smokies, which is just a few weeks away! Look for us there — we’re bringing a few extra “kid testers” this time! After that, we’ll give you an in-depth run-down of that attraction. For now, here’s what we found about the possible caving locations:

  • Forbidden Caverns. Sevierville, TN.
    • Address: 455 Blowing Cave Rd, Sevierville, TN
    • Features: Sparkling formations, towering natural chimneys, grottos and a crystal clear stream
    • Hours/Dates: Open April through November. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Sundays.
    • Tours: I think there’s only one option. But it’s hard to tell.
    • Cost: Around $15 for adults, $8 for kids
    • Other Thoughts: This cave is named from an Indian legend about an Indian princess who was lost in a “hollow mountain of two streams” … “which is forbidden.” The cave was used to make moonshine during the 20s and until 1943.
    • A Review from Yelp.com: “I was a little nervous that this may be a tourist trap but was pleased when I got there and realized this is in fact an active cave. The guided walk takes you down 600 feet below the ground and provides stunning views of cave formations and underground streams while your guide fills you in on the history of the area. Some of the areas are a little tight, low ceilings, or steep, but hand railings are provided whenever you may need them.”
  • Cumberland Caverns. McMinnville, TN.
    • Address: 1437 Cumberland Caverns Rd., McMinnville, TN
    • Features: Large underground rooms, saltpeter mine, waterfall, pools
    • Hours/Dates: Open year-round, 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Tours: Scenic walking tour (about an hour and a half); four group spelunking trips available
    • Cost: $18 for adults, $10 for kids, under 5 free. There are also several packages, including a family deal: two adults & two kids for $50
    • Other Thoughts: Website looks really impressive. This cave seems to be much more than just a tourist attraction. Also offers gem mining for the kids. Which is nice, but might directly contradict what I just said…  :) One other thought — most reviews I looked at were very high, but I saw a few that were extremely low due to frustration that the tour includes a religious-themed light show. Some people seemed offended by this.
    • A Review from TripAdvisor: “The cave is really beautiful and we were impressed. There is quite a bit of steps but they tell you this before you start. We had a great guide and everyone is very friendly.”
  • Tuckaleechee Caverns, Townsend, TN.
    • Address: 825 Cavern Road, Townsend, TN
    • Features: A double waterfall, big rooms, onyx formations
    • Hours/Dates: April to October, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Tours: One walking tour available
    • Cost: $11 for adults, $5.50 for kids, 4 and under are free
    • Other Thoughts: Has a neat story about the cave’s owners, who played near the entrance as small boys.
    • A Review from Yahoo!Travel: “This place was absolutely amazing! It almost felt as though you were on another planet or in a dream. The pictures shown really are unable to capture the true wonder of it all. I plan to bring all my family next time!”
  • The Lost Sea. Sweetwater, TN.
    • Address: 140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN
    • Features: Boat ride on America’s largest underground lake
    • Hours/Dates: Open every day, 9 a.m. until 5ish p.m. Closing hour changes depending on month.
    • Tours: Waking tour and boat ride; extended flashlight tour for groups; group spelunking trips (overnight and day)
    • Cost: Spelunking — about $24 for day and $30 for night, plus meals; walking/boat tour — about $17 for adults, $8 for kids, 4 and under are free
    • Other Thoughts: There are other things to do here — there’s an old-fashioned village to explore before your cave tour.
    • A Review from TripAdvisor: “My family and I are cave tour junkies and have done them all over the US. The main attraction of this cave is the lake, it has a beautiful, blue/white luminescent quality. The fish eating around the boat were cool to see. As far as interesting formations or cave quality, this tour is not high on that list.”
  • Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Chattanooga, TN.
    • Address: 319 W. Hills Dr., Chattanooga, TN.
    • Features: Known for an incredible array of diverse, natural formations
    • Hours/Dates: Open year round
    • Tours: Crystal Palace Walking Tour (about 45 minutes); Wild Tour Expeditions
    • Cost: About $14 for adults, $7 for kids, 5 and under are free
    • Other Thoughts: Again, lots else to do here, but seems touristy, including panning for gemstones and go-karts
    • A Review from InsiderPages: “The tour guides are knowledgeable and personable and handle potential dangers really intelligently. Aside from the cave tours, they offer camping and go-karts, but the cave tours are by far their most interesting offering.”
About Kendra