Mid-Atlantic’s caverns offer tours, plus cool temperatures

Jane and Marvin Bond

The Mid-Atlantic’s commercial show caves offer educational tours, a constant temperature in the mid-50s to cool you on a hot summer day, and a host of additional entertainment options. And, that’s in addition to the fascinating formations and distinctive colors. Some caverns also offer adventure cave experiences, but check for reservation requirements. Caverns Luray

The region’s caverns offer gift shops that range from country chic to 1950s kitsch. Each cavern’s experience is reasonably priced and fun for the whole family. Tours generally last about an hour, but check websites for specific tour hours that might vary seasonally. Most caverns’ websites also have discounted admission offers, but not all are open year-round. Remember to take a jacket and good walking shoes!

 

PENNSYLVANIA 

Coral Caverns, Manns Choice  

814-977-9570

Bedford County’s Coral Caverns includes its namesake formation, a towering fossil wall containing the fossil remains of coral and other sea creatures that lived in the Great Inland Sea millions of years ago. Open weekends, mid-May through October.

Crystal Cave Park, Kutztown 

610-683-6765, crystalcavepa.com

This was the first commercial cave in Pennsylvania. At its free museum, you’ll see artifacts and an Omnibus that was used to transport early tourists, as well as an Amish buggy. You can also pan for gems, play miniature golf, walk the nature trail, and enjoy the ice cream parlor and café during July and August. Historic lantern tours will be offered at Halloween with reservations.

 

Indian Caverns, Spruce Creek 

814-632-7578, indiancaverns.com 

The tour features Native American history and artifacts and a room with naturally phosphorescent calcite formations. You’ll see the largest sheet of flowstone in the Northeast. Primitive campgrounds have been added, and the cave offers three-hour photo tours for amateur and professional photographers.

 

Indian Echo Caverns, Hummelstown 

717-566-8131, indianechocaverns.com

There’s a 45-minute tour complete with legends of the Susquehannock Indians and the Pennsylvania Hermit, William Wilson. See calcite formations and underground lakes. Outside, pan for gemstones, visit the petting zoo, and see real Texas longhorn cattle. It’s all close to Hershey’s attractions and is open all year.

Laurel Caverns, Hopwood 

800-515-4150, laurelcaverns.com

This is Pennsylvania’s largest cavern; various caving and rappelling activities are offered, in addition to a guided tour. You can pan for fossils and gemstones or play mini-golf on the Kavern putt course with holes that reflect unique aspects of the cave.

 

Lincoln Caverns, Huntingdon 

814-643-0268, lincolncaverns.com

Located near Raystown Lake, the attraction offers a tour of Lincoln Caverns and Whisper Rocks and is offering flashlight adventures and photography tours on select dates this summer with advance reservations. You can pan for gemstones and take a walk on the nature trail, as well.

 

Lost River Caverns, Hellertown 

610-838-8767, lostcave.com

The tour is a walking one, but you do see a part of the Lost River in the cave. You also can enjoy the Gilman Museum’s artifacts and antique guns and the rock shop with new minerals, fossils, and fluorescents. There’s also a nature trail and gem mining.

 

Penn’s Cave, Centre Hall 

814-364-1664, pennscave.com

Located near Penn State University, Penn’s Cave might be the most unusual of the nine commercial show caves in Pennsylvania, because its tour is by boat.

For a separate fee, you can see the African Adventure Museum and also take a 90-minute guided wildlife tour that includes North American animals such as the cave’s icon, the cougar. Kids and adults can also enjoy panning for gems and bison or longhorn burgers in the café.

 

Woodward Cave, Woodward 

814-349-9800, woodwardcave.com

The property offers a tour of its cave formations and has a 13-acre campground and cabin rentals. Among the five underground rooms are the Hall of Statues, a 200-foot-long underground room that includes a 14-foot stalagmite, and the Ballroom, actually used for square dances and banquets.

 

MARYLAND  

Crystal Grottoes, Boonsboro 

240-217-7623,  crystalgrottoescaverns.com

The cave is about an hour from Washington and Baltimore and claims to have more formations per square foot than any other known cave. A new section of cave is open this year and LED lighting was installed throughout. The third-generation owner says he learned the tour script from his grandfather when he was six years old. Camping is available.

VIRGINIA

Dixie Caverns, Salem 

540-380-2085, dixiecaverns.com 

Located near Roanoke, this is the southernmost Mid-Atlantic cavern, and its tour takes you up into the mountain and down into its depths. Above ground, there is year-round camping, a rock and mineral shop, and an antiques mall. Open all year.

 

Endless Caverns, New Market 

540-896-2283, endlesscaverns.com

The caverns feature miniature pools, draperies, and columns, and it’s true that no end has been found to the cave. Endless also offers a campground and RV park above ground and is open until Oct. 31.

 

Grand Caverns, Grottoes 

888-430-CAVE, grandcaverns.com 

This is said to be the oldest U.S. show cave, and on your tour you’ll see Civil War-era graffiti and unusual shield formations. The park also offers  hiking and biking trails, miniature golf, and an Olympic-sized pool. You can take an adventure tour of a wild cave with reservations July 3 and 25, Aug. 8 and 29, Sept. 12 and 26, and Oct. 10. There’s a bluegrass festival Sept. 10–15. Open all year.

 

Luray Caverns, Luray 

540-743-6551, luraycaverns.com

Luray is known as the largest cavern in the East. Its tour includes massive columns and music from the famous “stalacpipe” organ. Admission includes the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, the new Luray Valley Museum and gem sluice, and Toy Town Junction’s massive collection of toys and trains. A garden maze attraction is extra, as is the Rope Adventure Park with three levels of rope challenges. Open all year.

 

Natural Bridge Caverns, Natural Bridge 

800-533-1410, naturalbridgeva.com

This is the deepest cavern in the East, is relatively young for a cave, and is one of the region’s most “active” caves. The tour takes you 34-stories deep into the earth to see straws, flowstone cascades, draperies, and pools. The Natural Bridge, Monocan Indian Village, and other activities are on the property, as is the Natural Bridge Hotel.

 

Shenandoah Caverns, Shenandoah Caverns 

888-4CAVERN, shenandoahcaverns.com

The caverns are handicapped accessible, with an elevator and no steps along the tour of 17 underground rooms. A combination ticket gets you into an exhibit of holiday department store windows, a parade float hall of fame, The Yellow Barn’s country-themed exhibits, and the Virginia Wine Shop. The Shenandoah Jamboree entertains Aug. 1, Oct 3, and Nov. 21. Open all year.

 

Skyline Caverns, Front Royal 

800-296-4545, skylinecaverns.com

Located at the north entrance to Skyline Drive and the closest to Washington, D.C., the caverns include rare anthodites and three streams, as well as the Rainbow Waterfall and an award-winning lighting system. You can take a miniature train ride or navigate the Mirror Maze for an additional fee. A half-mile nature trail is free. Open all year.

 

WEST VIRGINIA

Lost World Caverns, Lewisburg 

866-228-3778, lostworldcaverns.com

An unusual self-guided tour allows you to spend as much or as little time as you like admiring the formations. The attraction also includes a natural history museum with the largest collection of dinosaur and fossil replicas in West Virginia. There are four-hour wild cave tours as well. Open all year.

 

Organ Cave, Organ Cave 

304-645-7600, organcave.com

This is said to be the second-largest cave in the eastern U.S., and its history involves Thomas Jefferson and the Civil War. You can choose the 90-minute walking tour, a Civil War tour, or, with advance reservation, one of the guided adventure tours. Open all year.

 

Seneca Caverns, Riverton 

800-239-7647, senecacaverns.com

West Virginia’s largest cave was discovered by the Seneca Indians. It features dramatic flowstone formations. There is a separate guided stratosphere adventure caving experience for which you bring your own lights, as well as a caveXplore option that teaches basic caving. You can mine for gemstones or enjoy the on-site family restaurant, all in the beautiful setting of Seneca Rocks.

 

Smoke Hole Caverns, Cabins 

800-828-8478, smokehole.com 

There’s a cavern tour that includes gravity-defying helectites and the world’s longest ribbon stalactite. You’ll also find a variety of cabins, camping, “Moonshine Mining,” and what may be West Virginia’s largest gift shop. The caverns were used by Native Americans, Civil War soldiers, and even moonshiners. Kids can pan for gemstones or fossils and there’s a “fish and keep” pond. Open all year.

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