The 7 Best Caves & Caverns in North Carolina

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There are almost 900 caverns and caves in North Carolina, most of which are located in either the mountains of Western North Carolina or the NC piedmont. But only a few of them are open to the public.

That being said, the accessible caves in NC are an impressive collection.

Better still, these NC caves are sprinkled throughout the region. So at least one or two are likely to be near whichever North Carolina mountain town you’re visiting.

There are several caverns located near Asheville, including the most famous caverns in NC: Linville Caverns. Boone is also near Linville Caverns, as well as the caves of Grandfather Mountain.

Mount Airy— the small town home of Andy Griffith—is near Tory’s Den in Hanging Rock State Park. And Hendersonville’s Bat Cave is located just a few miles from the iconic Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.

In other words, from north to south, the best opportunities for caving in North Carolina are less than an hour away from one another. They’ll also provide a completely different way to see the state– from below!

Read for our guide to the best caves and caverns in North Carolina, including details on the entry fees and main attractions of each one. 

READ MORE: The 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List for the Blue Ridge Mountains

Best Caves & Caverns in North Carolina Guide

  1. Linville Caverns
  2. Indian House Cave & Black Rock Cliffs Cave
  3. Worley’s Cave
  4. Bat Cave
  5. Bon Ami Mine
  6. Boone’s Cave
  7. Tory’s Den

Caverns Near Boone NC

Located in the North Carolina High Country, Boone has an expansive array of great restaurantsbreweries, Christmas Tree Farms and tourist attractions.

It’s also near many of North Carolina’s best snow skiing resorts, and you can hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway for access to Grandfather Mountain State Park, Moses Cone Memorial Park, and the town of Blowing Rock.

In short, these North Carolina caves aren’t the only attraction to be found around Boone. But, make no mistake, there are some beautiful caverns to behold!

READ MORE: 20 Best Things to Do in Boone NC (Blue Ridge Parkway MM 291.8)

Linville Caverns in NC - Flowstone
Linville Caverns Flowstone, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Linville Caverns

Address: 19929 US 221 North, Marion, NC 28752 • Phone: 828-756-4171 

Hours: Thurs – Mon, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Entry Fee: $12.00 per adult, $10.00 per child (5-12), $11.00 for age 62+

Official Website

More or less located right between Boone and Asheville (about an hour from each), Linville Caverns is a short detour from the Blue Ridge Parkway near the towns of Linville Falls and Little Switzerland.

Linville Caverns has been a tourist attraction in the region since the 1930s, with incremental improvements over the decades.

The limestone caverns were formed in deposits of dolomite at the foot of Humpback Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The cave is full of stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations. It was also used as a hide-out for deserters during the Civil War, and you can still see 160-year-old graffiti on the rocks today!

Self-proclaimed as “the only show cavern in North Carolina,” the cave is open to tours all year-round.

Visitors in the fall and winter months can expect to see tri-colored bats and little brown bats, which annually take up residence in the cavern. You may also see trout swimming in a spring inside the cave. 

READ MORE: Things to Do at the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area (Near Linville Falls NC)

Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

2. Indian House Cave & Black Rock Cliffs Cave

Address: 4198 N.C. 105 N, Banner Elk, NC 28604 • Phone: 828-963-9522

Entry Fee: Free via State Park, $22 adults and $9 children via Attraction

Official Website

There are two caves found in Grandfather Mountain State Park: Indian House Cave and Black Rock Cliffs Cave. Unfortunately, due to white-nose syndrome threatening bat populations, these caves may be closed to visitors.

Black Rock Cliffs Cave is the more extensive cave system, with six rooms. It’s home to colonies of Virginia big-eared, eastern small-footed, northern long-eared, little brown, and tri-colored bats.

The Black Rock Trail, which is more easily accessed from the private Grandfather Mountain attraction, offers amazing views of the Mile-High Swinging Bridge and one of the most iconic North Carolina mountains.

Technically, Indian House Cave isn’t really a cave, but a shelter beneath a rocky outcrop. But it is considered an important Native American archeological site, and can be accessed via a detour from the Grandfather Trail.

It’s located near Attic Window Peak, so the quickest way to it is also via the private Grandfather Mountain attraction (which costs $22 for adults and $9 for children).

The state park trails are free to use, but the trek to the caves would require several hours of strenuous hiking from the nearest access point, which is the Profile Parking Area.

READ MORE: Things to Do at Grandfather Mountain State Park in Banner Elk NC

Worley's Cave TN
Worley’s Cave, photo via Discover Bristol

3. Worley’s Cave

461 Timber Ridge Rd, Bluff City, TN 37618 • 866-872-7238

Entry Fee: $5.00

Official Website

In reality, Worley’s Cave is located just across the border in Tennessee, not North Carolina (which is why it’s still open, unlike most NC caves). 

But it’s an easy day-trip adventure to Worley’s Cave from the NC High Country area.

Sometimes referred to as Morrill Cave, Worley’s Cave is more than 500 million years old and over four miles long, making it the second-longest cave in Tennessee.

The paths around the cave are unlit unless you bring headlamps and flashlights. So Worley’s Cave offers an authentic spelunking experience that’s easy enough for novices to enjoy.

That being said, a decent level of fitness– such as being able to lift your own body weight onto a kitchen counter– is necessary for the cave tours.

It’s possible to book a guided tour of Worley’s Cave with operators in Banner Elk (High Mountain Expeditions) or in Boone (River & Earth Adventures).

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC

View from the Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain
View from Grandfather Mountain, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Asheville Caves

Asheville NC is the most metropolitan hub for tourists looking to explore Western North Carolina.

Asheville’s historic downtown offers fantastic restaurants, brewpubs, and museums, while also providing easy access to a ton of NC state parks, waterfalls, hiking trails, and cabin rentals.

Included in the list of great Asheville attractions are several cool caves and caverns.

As already mentioned, Linville Caverns is about an hour away, but there are other Asheville caves to visit.

READ MORE: The 30 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Bat in Caves in North Carolina via Canva
Bat in Cave, photo via Canva

4. Bat Cave

The Nature Conservancy, Mountains Office NC

PO Box 17519, Asheville, NC 28816 • Phone: 828-350-1431

Located south of Asheville in Henderson County, Bat Cave is the namesake feature of the 186-acre Bat Cave Preserve, as well as the small, unincorporated community of Bat Cave NC.

Currently closed to visitors, the Bat Cave is the largest granite fissure in the US, and it was once home to several difference species of bats. Unfortunately, most of them are now gone due to white-nose syndrome.

The main chamber in Bat Cave is enormous, stretching over 300 feet long and opening some 85 feet high. There are other passages in the cave system that are mapped at nearly 1.5 miles long. 

In addition to bats, the cave is said to be home to rattlesnakes in the wintertime.

The Bat Cave is now owned and protected by the North Carolina Nature Conservancy, which does not allow tours of the cave or surrounding area. In short, no visitors are currently allowed. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Hendersonville NC

Bon Ami Mine Tours at Emerald Village in Little Switzerland NC
The Bon Ami Mine at Emerald Village, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

5. Bon Ami Mine

331 McKinney Mine Rd, Spruce Pine, NC 28777 • Phone: 828-765-6463

Entry Fee: $10.00 for adults, $8.00 children 5-12, free for children 4 & under

Official Website

Okay, it’s true that a mine is not quite the same thing as a natural cave. But North Carolina is replete with gem mines, and they can be equally fun to explore. 

And since most NC caves and caverns have been closed to protect the bats, we’ll just roll with it on this one.

Located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 334, the Bon Ami Mine is found at Emerald Village near Little Switzerland NC. It’s part of the NC Mining Museum, and the price of admission includes a souvenir booklet for a self-guided tour of it.

The Bon Ami Mine has veins of smoky quartz and countless flecks of mica, and there’s some antique mining equipment on display.

You may also be able to spot fish in the deep mine waters, and swallows flying in and out of the mine’s entrance.

There’s also a nighttime black-light mine tour offered ($20 for adults) that uses ultraviolet lights to make fluorescent minerals– particularly Hyalite Opal– glow.

READ MORE: Exploring Emerald Village: North Carolina Gem Mines in Little Switzerland

North Carolina Piedmont in Winter with view of Catawba River
North Carolina Piedmont in Winter with Catawba River, photo via Canva

Caves in the NC Piedmont

East of I-77 in the North Carolina Piedmont, there are a couple of caves that make for great features when visiting their accompanying parks.

In other words, these aren’t attractions that have organized tours, but they are worth checking out.

If you’re traveling to Mount Airy, Winston-Salem, or Greensboro NC, these are the closest caves available.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Treehouse Rentals in the North Carolina Mountains

Boone's Cave in NC
Daniel Boone’s cave near Lexington NC, photo by Dennis Brown via CC BY-SA 3.0

6. Boone’s Cave

3552 Boone’s Cave Rd, Lexington, NC 27292 • Phone: 336-752-2322

Entry Fee: Free

Official Website

Found in Boone’s Cave Park, Boone’s Cave has a bit of a mysterious history.

Some folks believe that the Boone family–as in Daniel Boone– spent their first year in North Carolina at (or near) Boone’s Cave.

No historically documented evidence exists to support this local legend. But it has been widely documented that the Boones did spend time in Davidson County, where Boone’s Cave is located.

Boone’s Cave Park encompasses more than 100 acres, and offers 7.5 miles of hiking trails to enjoy. The park also has fishing, disc golf, campgrounds, and phenomenal North Carolina wildflowers.

To access the cave, take the steps from the parking area at the end of Boone’s Cave Road.

It’s a very short descent that can be grouped with the park trails to make for a good day hike.

READ MORE: The Hickory Ridge Living History Museum & “Horn in the West” in Boone NC

Hanging Rock State Park NC
Hanging Rock State Park, photo by C. Peek via ncparks.gov

7. Tory’s Den

1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury, NC 27016 • Phone: 336-593-8480

Entry Fee: Free

Official Website

Hanging Rock State Park has 20-plus miles of hiking trails, a lake open to fishing and swimming, paddling on the Dan River, rock climbing at Cook’s Wall, a park museum, and of course the iconic “Hanging Rock.”

In other words, its 20-foot-deep cave— Tory’s Den— often gets overshadowed by the park’s other features.

However, the walk to Tory’s Den features both the cave and Tory’s Falls, the tallest of the waterfalls in the park (240 feet), making it worthy of recognition.

Aside from being a noteworthy natural attraction, Tory’s Den is also of some historical interest. Some historians believe that the cave was a hideout for Tories during the US Revolutionary War.

Tory’s Den can be accessed from the Tory’s Den Parking Lot, located at 1185 Charlie Young Road.

The trailhead for the Tory’s Den Cave & Waterfall Trail is at the east end of the lot. —Jonathon Engels; lead photo of Linville Caverns 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!

After visiting the Western North Carolina for the first time, Jonathon Engels and his wife Emma spent two years looking for a few acres of property there to establish a permaculture homestead. During that search, he explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, surrounding towns, and parks. He has taught at both Blue Ridge Community College and Surry Community College, is a member of a long-established land conservation community near the town of Dobson, volunteers at the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and continues to explore the Blue Ridge, a place he now lovingly calls home.