Connect the dots down the Shenandoah Valley this summer when you visit all eight Virginia caverns. Each has very unique features and its own story to tell.
A constant 50-something-degree temperature makes each cavern a welcome reprieve on a hot summer day. Set your course from north to south along US Route 11 or Interstate 81 to hit these in order.
1. Skyline Caverns * Front Royal – Skyline is famous for its rare Anthrodites which radiate spike formations resembling flowers. They’re called the Orchids of the Mineral Kingdom. Other cool formations here are The Shrine and Fairyland Lake.
2. Shenandoah Caverns * Quicksburg – Shenandoah is the only cavern system in Virginia with elevator service to its 17 underground rooms. A can’t-miss is Rainbow Lake with iridescent drip formations of bright colors. Other cool formations are Diamond Cascade, Beyond the Veil and Grotto of the Gods.
3. Luray Caverns * Luray – Luray is the largest cavern on the East Coast and includes a Stalacpipe Organ. The organ pipes are stalactites stretching 3.5 underground acres. The most impressive structure at Luray is Giant’s Hall – expansive chambers decorated by golden, 10-story-high columns. Other cool formations of Endless are Titania’s Veil, Frozen Fountain and Empress Column.
4. Endless Caverns * New Market – Endless is called endless for a reason. Numerous expeditions have failed to find the end of this cave system, which is already mapped at more than five miles. Another awesome claim to fame? A fossilized woolly mammoth’s tooth resides here. Cool formations here include Fairy Land, the Lodge Room, and Fresh Bacon Slices.
5. Grand Caverns * Grottoes – Grand is indeed grand with breathtaking panoramic subterranean beauty. It is also the oldest show cave in the United States, having originally opened in 1806 as Weyers Cave. Parade ranked Grand Caverns number two in the nation based on physical aspects like room size, paths, ratio of growth formations to dormant formations, and overall beauty. Don’t miss the Rainbow Room.
6. Natural Bridge Caverns * Natural Bridge – This cavern is the deepest on the East Coast at 34 stories down. Collosal Dome is the prize formation here, but also look for Flowstone Cascade and Wishing Well.
7. Dixie Caverns * Salem – Dixie was discovered in 1920 by a boy and his dog, just as Endless Caverns were found by boys and a dog in 1879. Dogs have a knack for sniffing out big caves, huh? The Magic Mirror Room is where the magic happens at Dixie. Other cool formation here include the Wedding Bell, Turkey Wing and Fairy Land (fairies sure are popular in the underground world).
8. Gap Caverns * Ewing – Located in Cumberland Gap National Park and west of Interstate 81, Gap Caverns is home to one of the tallest stalagmites in the world – Pillar of Hercules. Tours are given by lantern light here, so expect a very pioneering, adventurous feel when you enjoy Gap Caverns.
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