10 Best Caverns and Underground Caves in Tennessee

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The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to an extensive array of caves and caverns, many of which have significant historical importance. 

There are more caves and caverns in Tennessee than any other U.S. state, with more than 8,000 having been officially registered to date.

So no matter which region of the state you plan to visit, there will likely be Tennessee caves close enough to be worthy of a day trip.

Many of these underground caves in Tennessee have been used for centuries by humans and animals alike.

Some were used as shelter by the Cherokee people and other indigenous tribes, while others were mined for minerals used in the Civil War. 

In our experience, many of the most popular Tennessee caverns are well-equipped for children and those with disabilities, offering clear pathways, handrails, lights, and elevators.  

Adventurous travelers may enjoy exploring Tennessee‘s underground caves, which offer more physically demanding cave tours. You can even spend the night in some, if you don’t find it too scary

Read on for our in-depth guide to the best caverns and underground caves in Tennessee, including an overview of their history, cave tours, and distinctive attractions. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Caves and Caverns in Virginia

Caverns & Underground Caves in Tennessee Guide

(Arranged Geographically & Alphabetically)

  1. Bell Witch Cave
  2. Dunbar Cave
  3. Ruby Falls Cave
  4. Raccoon Mountain Caverns
  5. Pelham Caverns
  6. Cumberland Caverns
  7. Craighead Caverns/The Lost Sea
  8. Forbidden Caverns
  9. Tuckaleechee Caverns
  10. Bristol Caverns

READ MORE: Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains? A State-by-State Guide


Caves Near Nashville, Tennessee

The Bell Witch Cave
The Bell Witch Cave, photo by Www78 via CC BY-SA 3.0

1. Bell Witch Cave

Distance from Nashville: 42.1 miles

430 Keysburg Rd, Adams TN • (615) 696-3055Official Website

If you’re searching for caves near Nashville, head to Adams TN. This small town is home to one of the country’s most mysterious legends.

The Tennessee legend of the Bell Witch haunting dates back to 1817, when John Bell and his family began to experience unexplained activity in their home that would terrify them to their core. 

John Bell’s death in December of 1820 was officially attributed to supernatural events. Ghost hunters can visit Adams TN and stop by a number of Bell Witch-related sites, including the famous Bell Witch Cave. 

This 490-foot-long Tennessee cave is located near where the Bell family cabin once stood. During the summer, visitors can join guided tours of the cave and its surroundings.

Guests will hear the stories of the Bell family hauntings during a tour of a replica cabin that houses numerous documents, photos, and books relating to this spooky tale. 

READ MORE: What is Bluegrass? The History & Evolution of Appalachian Music

Caves in Tennessee near Nashville
Dunbar Cave, photo via Canva

2. Dunbar Cave

Distance from Nashville: 45.7 miles

401 Old Dunbar Cave Road, Clarksville TN • (931) 648-5526 • Official Website

If you’re interested in exploring more caves near Nashville, head 45 miles northwest of the city to visit the Dunbar Cave in Clarksville TN.

Taking a guided tour of this cave is actually the highlight of one of our favorite Tennessee State Parks

Inside the cave you’ll find sacred drawings from the indigenous Mississippian culture that are believed to date back to the 14th century CE. . 

Visitors can also explore the park’s network of hiking trails and beautiful lake, or just stay to watch the birds and other wildlife on the prairies and wetlands. 

READ MORE: 20 Beautiful Birds of Tennessee


Caves in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Pink Ruby Falls Waterfalls in Chattanooga TN
Ruby Falls, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Ruby Falls Cave

Distance from Chattanooga: 4.3 miles

1720 Scenic Hwy, Chattanooga TN • (423) 821-2544 • Official Website

The Ruby Falls Cave has been a popular Tennessee attraction since it was first discovered in 1928.

Located within Lookout Mountain, these caverns near Chattanooga TN are another great adventure for those visiting the area’s Civil War sites

Visitors can take a guided tour deep into the mountain to learn about the Chattanooga cave’s intriguing geological formations, which include stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and more.

Guests descend 260 feet via a glass-fronted elevator, with the path ultimately leading the deepest and tallest of the underground waterfalls in Tennessee (and the entire USA).

The series of cascades, which are fed by rainwater and natural springs, totals approximately 145 feet.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Lookout Mountain GA/TN

Caves in Chattanooga Tennessee - Racoon Mountain Caverns
Crystal Palace, photo courtesy of raccoonmountain.com

4. Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Distance from Chattanooga: 7.8 miles

319 West Hills Dr, Chattanooga TN • (615) 696-3055Official Website

Looking for more caves near Chattanooga? Check out the 5.5 miles of underground passageways that take you through Raccoon Mountain Caverns.

These TN caverns are very well preserved, and are one of the most geologically active caverns in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Visitors can join a guided Crystal Palace Tour through the first 1/4-mile of the caverns, which are equipped with lights, paths, and handrails.

You’ll learn about the geology and history of the cave. If you’re lucky, you might also get a glimpse of the cave’s native wildlife, including bats and salamanders.

More adventurous guests can also go on a Wild Cave Expedition, which travel deeper into the undeveloped parts of Raccoon Mountain Caverns.

Helmets, gloves, and headlamps are all provided to keep you safe. But wear clothes you don’t mind getting muddy, and be prepared to crawl, climb, slide, and squeeze!

READ MORE: Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park in Lookout Mountain

Caverns near Chattanooga TN
Pelham Caverns courtesy of thecaverns.com

5. Pelham Caverns

555 Charlie Roberts Rd, Pelham TN • (931) 516-9724 • Official Website

Distance from Chattanooga: 58.1 miles

Located in Pelham TN, the Pelham Caverns feature 8,000 feet of winding underground passages.

These Tennessee caves have been used by humans for some 25,000 years, but today they’re most famously used as a subterranean concert hall!

Cave concerts at Pelham Caverns can hold 850 people, with ample room for seating and standing. 

Aside from catching live music, guests can take tours to learn about the history and geology of the Pelham TN caverns. Adventure cave tours are also available that take tourists far deeper into the belly of the cave.

Led by experienced cavers, these excursions include helmets and other essential gear to keep visitors safe during one of the more challenging cave tours in Tennessee.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Ocoee River Rafting Guide

Cumberland Caves Tennessee
Lights Out Overnight Tour, photo courtesy of CumberlandCaverns.com

6. Cumberland Caverns

Distance from Chattanooga: 69.2 miles

1437 Cumberland Caverns Rd, McMinnville TN • (931) 668-4396 • Official Website

Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee offers a host of different tours that will suit all ages and abilities.

Various walking tours will give you an insight into the geology and Tennessee history of the caves.

Their Adventure Tours will have you squeezing and clambering through undeveloped areas of the caverns. Note that these Adventure Tours are physically demanding, and have separate age restrictions. 

If you’re really into caving, you can also opt for an overnight stay in the Cumberland caves, which offer an opportunity for camping some 333 feet below ground level.

There are various options suitable for children ages 6 and older, with others requiring a minimum age of 16. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for White Water Rafting in Tennessee


Caves Near Knoxville, Tennessee

Underground Lake at Lost Sea Adventure Caverns in Tennessee
Underground Lake at the Lost Sea Adventure, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

7. Craighead Caverns/The Lost Sea

Distance from Knoxville: 52 miles

140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater TN • (423) 333-2289  • Official Website

The Lost Sea Cavern, also known as Craighead Caverns Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater TN, is home to the country’s largest underground lake.

This Tennessee cave has an abundance of stunning geological formations, as well as a small waterfall. The bones and footprints of a Pleistocene jaguar were also found here. 

Guided tours of the Lost Sea involve a 3/4-mile walking trail through the caverns, where you’ll learn about the caverns’ connection to the Cherokee people and the Civil War

The trail leads to a 4-acre underground lake that lies 140 feet below ground, with a boat ride that offers amazing views of the gorgeous “cave flowers.” 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Lakes in Tennessee to Visit


Caves Near Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Forbidden Caverns TN
The Grotto of Evil Spirit in Forbidden Caverns

8. Forbidden Caverns

Distance from Pigeon Forge: 18.4 miles

Distance from Gatlinburg : 26.2 miles

455 Blowing Cave Rd, Sevierville TN • (865) 453-5972 • Official Website

Though there are no caves in Pigeon Forge TN, there are a number of winners just a short ride away. The Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville TN is one of them.

Also known as the Forbidden Caves of Tennessee, this is said to be one of the best caverns in the USA. Visitors can take guided tours through the various chambers and grottos, passing a crystal-clear stream. 

Measures have been taken to make these caves near Sevierville TN available for people with varying degrees of ability. The trails are well-marked, with safety rails to make them easier to navigate.

However, there are around 50 steps to climb down, and some slippery surfaces that could make it difficult for some people to navigate. 

Humans have been using the Forbidden Caverns for centuries, from indigenous people who used the caves as shelters to more modern moonshine distillers, who made the most of the pristine spring water. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Caves near Pigeon Forge TN
Silver Falls in Tuckaleechee Caverns, photo courtesy of tuckaleecheecaverns.com

9. Tuckaleechee Caverns

Distance from Pigeon Forge: 20.9 miles

Distance from Gatlinburg: 26.6 miles

825 Cavern Rd, Townsend TN • (865) 448-2274 • Official Website

If you’re looking for more amazing caves near Pigeon Forge, put Tuckaleechee Caverns on your list. 

Billed as “the Greatest Site under the Smokies,” Tuckaleechee Caverns are inside one of the planet’s oldest mountain chains and are thought to be 20-30 million years old. 

One of the underground caverns here is almost big enough to house a football stadium!

There’s also a 210-foot-tall Smoky Mountain waterfall, Silver Falls, which is the tallest underground double waterfall in the Eastern USA. 

Visitors can see all of these sites on a 1.25-mile round-trip guided tour. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Great Smoky Mountains Campgrounds to Visit

Underground caves Tennessee - Stalactites in Bristol Caverns in Bristol TN
Stalactites at Bristol Caverns in Bristol TN, photo by Emma Gallagher

10. Bristol Caverns

Distance from Pigeon Forge: 114 miles

Distance from Gatlinburg: 122 miles

1157 Bristol Caverns Highway, Bristol TN  • (423) 878-2011 • Official Website

It’s not near any of the major Tennessee cities, but Bristol Caverns is just a short journey from Downtown Bristol TN/VA and makes a fun afternoon for families. 

These caverns have well-lit walkways that help guide you through the various chambers and along the banks of the ancient underground river in one of the oldest caves in east Tennessee.

Thought to be 200 to 400 million years old, these caverns have served humans for centuries. The underground river was likely used by indigenous people as an escape route from European settlers. 

Bring your camera and try to capture the stunning reflections in the river, which lies 180 feet below the ground. -by Emma Gallagher; featured image of the Ruby Falls Cave Tour by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.