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.
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.
Best Caves & Caverns in North Carolina Guide
- Linville Caverns
- Indian House Cave & Black Rock Cliffs Cave
- Worley’s Cave
- Bat Cave
- Bon Ami Mine
- Boone’s Cave
- Tory’s Den
Caverns Near Boone NC
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!
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+
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.
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
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.
3. Worley’s Cave
461 Timber Ridge Rd, Bluff City, TN 37618 • 866-872-7238
Entry Fee: $5.00
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.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Banner Elk NC
Asheville NC is the most metropolitan hub for tourists looking to explore Western North Carolina.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
6. Boone’s Cave
3552 Boone’s Cave Rd, Lexington, NC 27292 • Phone: 336-752-2322
Entry Fee: Free
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.
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.
7. Tory’s Den
1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury, NC 27016 • Phone: 336-593-8480
Entry Fee: Free
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