If you’ve ever driven I-81 through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, you probably know that there are myriad caverns and caves in Virginia.
In fact, many of the most famous caves in the USA are on the Virginia caverns map!
But you may be wondering, what’s the difference between a cave and a cavern?
Some folks say that caverns have stalactites and stalagmites, while caves do not.
Some say that caves have sections with no sunlight, while others say it’s all about the plant and animal life contained within.
But geology experts actually say that there’s no difference whatsoever. They claim that “cavern” is a term most often used for marketing show caves, while “cave” is the term used by professionals.
The best caves and caverns in VA are world-class attractions with amazing rock formations. They’re dotted throughout the state of Virginia, from caves near Washington DC to the borders with Tennessee and Kentucky.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the best caverns in Virginia, including details about the history of each cave, guided tours, major features, and a handy Virginia caves map!
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Best Caves & Caverns in Virginia Guide
(Arranged by region)
- Luray Caverns
- Grand Caverns
- Shenandoah Caverns
- Endless Caverns
- Skyline Caverns
- Crystal Grottoes Cavern (Maryland)
- The Caverns at Natural Bridge
- Dixie Caverns
- Sand Cave
- Gap Caverns
- Natural Tunnel
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Shenandoah Valley Caverns & Caves
1. Luray Caverns
101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray VA • (540) 743-6551 • Official Website
Luray Caverns in Virginia is the largest show cave in the Eastern US, and they’ve been attracting tourists to the Shenandoah Valley since 1878.
The cave features numerous impressive calcite (limestone) formations, including columns, mud flows, stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone. The Double Column stands 47 feet, and is the tallest formation in the caverns.
One of its coolest features is the Luray Cavern organ, The Great Stalacpipe Organ. It’s the largest musical instrument in the world, and has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
There are also mirrored pools with incredible optical illusions. Though they’re quite shallow, the reflections of the stalactites on the ceiling make them seem deep.
Luray Cavern tickets are $32 for adults ($29 for seniors) and $16 for children (free for kids under 6), and group discounts are available.
Admission includes the caverns, as well as the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Toy Town Junction, and Shenandoah Heritage Village (a living history attraction).
There’s also a Garden Maze and Rope Adventure Park on site for an additional charge.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Luray VA (Gateway to Shenandoah)
2. Grand Caverns
5 Grand Caverns Dr, Grottoes VA • (888) 430-CAVES • Official Website
Grand Caverns VA has been open for tours since 1806, which makes it the oldest continually operating show cavern in the USA.
It was so popular that both Union and Confederate Soldiers visited it during the Civil War.
Once known as Weyer’s Cave and the Grottoes of Shenandoah, the Grand Caverns were discovered in 1804, when hunter Bernard Weyer was retrieving a trap.
The caverns were named a National Natural Landmark in 1973, and were officially given to the town of Grottoes VA by the Upper Valley Regional Park Authority in 2009.
This cave is especially renowned for its unique shield formations, but it also has stalagmites, stalactites, columns, draperies, and flowstone.
Cathedral Hall, the largest room in the attraction, is nearly 300 feet long and 70 feet high.
The park at Grand Caverns has biking and hiking trails, a mini-golf course, and a swimming pool. There are also shelters for picnics, a playground, and some great spots for fishing.
The grounds are open daily, and advance reservations are required for touring the cave.
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3. Shenandoah Caverns
261 Caverns Rd, Quicksburg VA • (540) 77-3115 • Official Website
Operating for over 100 years now, Shenandoah Caverns is the only cave in Virginia with elevator service.
Unfortunately, the entire site cannot be made ADA-accessible without damaging the natural wonder.
All cave tours are led by experienced guides, and they take about one hour to complete. The temperature in the cave is a steady 56º, so bringing a light jacket is a good idea.
Some of the major geological formations to look out for in the cave include Breakfast Bacon, Capitol Dome, Rainbow Lake, and Diamond Cascade.
Other attractions onsite include the American Celebration on Parade (parade floats), Main Street of Yesteryear (1940s-50s department store window displays), and the Gemstone Mining Sluice (panning for treasures).
Shenandoah Caverns is open 7 days a week. Their first tour begins at 10 AM, and reservations are not required. Tickets are $31 for adults and $15 for children, but kids ages 5 and under get free admission.
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Caves Near Washington DC
4. Endless Caverns
1800 Endless Caverns Rd, New Market VA • (540) 896-2283 • Official Website
Discovered in 1879, Endless Caverns VA once seemed like a mere hole covered by boulders.
But it turned out to be a 6-mile cave system at the base of the Massanutten Mountains, which are home to one of the most popular ski resorts in Virginia.
Endless Cave is home to colonies of bats, most of which are Little Brown Bats (which you will likely see on the tour).
In the spring and fall, tours of the Endless Caverns run every other hour from 10 AM to 4 PM. In summer, the tours run every hour.
Guided Endless Cave tours cost $25 for adults or $14 for kids ages 4-12. Kids ages 4 and under get in free.
Endless Caverns also has campgrounds, but visitors don’t have to stay in order to visit the caves. Amenities include a pool, playground, catch-and-release pond, game room, and hiking trails.
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5. Skyline Caverns
10344 Stonewall Jackson Hwy, Front Royal VA • (800) 296-4545 • Official Website
Skyline Caverns has a unique feature in that it hosts anthodite formations, which are amazing crystals that spread in every direction, seemingly defying gravity.
The Chandelier in the Skyline Caverns is the largest and oldest known anthodite formation in the world.
In addition to the anthodite, there are numerous rock formations, as well as 3 underground streams and Rainbow Waterfall, a 37-foot underground waterfall.
Some of the other highlights include the Painted Desert, Grotto of Nativity, Fairyland Lake, and Wishing Well.
Tours of Skyline Caverns start every 30 minutes and last one hour, and reservations are not required. Children under age 5 get in free, while ages 6-12 cost $14, and adults are $28 each.
In addition to the cave, Skyline Caverns also has a miniature train, a mirror maze, and a nature trail.
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6. BONUS CAVE: Crystal Grottoes Cavern (Maryland)
19821 Shepherdstown Pike, Boonsboro MD • (301) 432-6336 • Official Website
We won’t dive too deeply into this cave, since it isn’t actually located in Virginia.
But Crystal Grottoes is located about 60 miles northwest of DC in Boonsboro, Maryland.
The Crystal Grottoes Cavern is not nearly the spectacle you would expect from a top-notch Virginia cave.
But it is worth mentioning for those seeking too explore caves near Washington DC.
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Caverns near Roanoke VA
7. The Caverns at Natural Bridge
15 Appledore Ln, Natural Bridge VA • (540) 291-2121 • Official Website
Open to tourists since the 1970s, Natural Bridge Caverns in VA is a splendid attraction located a half-mile north of the Natural Bridge State Park Visitors Center.
The Caverns at Natural Bridge drop 34 stories beneath the surface, and they’re filled with noteworthy geological formations like Colossal Dome, the Canyon Room, and Mirror Lake.
Admission to the cave is $20 for adults, $13 for kids aged 3-12, and free for kids under age 3.
Tours of the Caverns take about 45 minutes, and a new one leaves every hour. Check the hours of operation on their website, as they’re different each day.
The Natural Bridge Caverns are one of several caverns near Roanoke VA, with Dixie Caverns being another.
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8. Dixie Caverns
5753 West Main St, Salem VA • (540) 380-2085 • Official Website
Dixie Caverns VA has been operating as a show cave for a solid century now.
The caverns were discovered in 1920, when a dog named Dixie (who belonged to two local farm boys) fell down a hole that led to them.
This cave’s most well-known formation is a bell-shaped flowstone form aptly known as the Wedding Bell.
Tours of Dixie Caverns take about 45 minutes and require a 1/4-mile of walking, including some staircases.
Entrance fees are $18 for adults, $8 for kids ages 5-12, and free for kids aged 4 and under. The cave is open every day except Tuesday, from 11 AM to 4 PM.
Dixie Caverns also has campgrounds, an antique store, and a gift shop.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA
Caves in Southwest Virginia
9. Sand Cave
SR 724, Ewing VA • (276) 346-4629 • Official Website
Sand Cave Virginia is hidden in the Cumberland Gap Historic National Park, which spreads out between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
However, the cave is best accessed via a trail from Thomas Walker Civic Park in Ewing VA.
While this cave doesn’t offer a maze-like exploration of different rooms, it is open to the public and makes for a great hike (or horseback ride).
The ceiling of the Sand Cave is a mixture of beautiful, covered rock formations.
Continuing down the hiking trail for another 1.5 miles leads to White Rocks, from which you can see all 3 of the states the park is in.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in SWVA (Southwest Virginia)
10. Gap Caverns
Route 58, Ewing VA • (804) 248-2817 • Official Website
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park has a mega cave in Virginia, and it’s one of the main attractions for visitors.
Gap Caverns is a karst cave, which was formed by natural chemical erosion from rainwater that collected carbon dioxide on its way down the Virginia Mountains.
The cave actually has several levels, some of which have had (or still have) waterways moving through them. Gap Creek still flows on the bottom level of the cave.
Although 14 miles of the cave have been explored, only a 1/2-mile of it is open to the public via Gap Cave tours.
In addition to water, there are lots of cool rock formations to see, as well as coloration from minerals and animals such as salamanders and bats.
Ranger-led guided tours of up to 20 visitors are available from April through September, and cost $8 for adults or $4 for kids ages 5 to 12.
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11. Natural Tunnel
1420 Natural Tunnel Pkwy, Duffield VA • (276) 940-2674 • Official Website
Unlike the other Virginia caves on our list, Natural Tunnel is not one that visitors can enter. It’s observed from the entrance via a viewing platform, because a train track runs right through it!
The massive tunnel was started by carbon-filled groundwater from the glacial period, and fully formed by Stock Creek carving away at the limestone bedrock.
In the mid-1800s, railroad lines began eyeing it for easy passage through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
While both passenger trains and cargo trains once traveled through it, only coal trains use the Natural Tunnel these days (and even those are rare).
Visitors can see the attraction by going to Natural Tunnel State Park, one of our favorite Virginia State Parks. Hiking down to the cave is free, but steep, or you can ride the chairlift for a few bucks.
The park also has several other attractions to explore, including campgrounds, the Blockhouse on the historic Wilderness Road (which Daniel Boone once traveled), and a visitor center. –by Jonathon Engels; featured image of Natural Bridge Caverns by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett