Spelunking Your Way through Texas
Hidden beneath the rolling landscape of the Texas Hill Country are thousands of caves and caverns with vast chambers, waterfalls and even fossils of ancient animals. Read on to learn more about some of the state’s most notable caves along the Balcones Fault Line between Austin and San Antonio.
is an hour and a half northwest of Austin and home to some truly spectacular cavern tours. Particular spaces of note within the cavern are Crystal City, where hundreds of calcite crystals sparkle from every wall, and the Indian Council Room, where Comanche Indians communed hundreds of years ago. The cave is 68 degrees year round and available tours include a guided walking tour exploring the geology and history of the cave, a wild cave tour exploring less developed areas of the cave and an evening paranormal tour delving into the cavern’s unexplained happenings.
The cavern itself has a colorful history. Legend has it that in the 1800s, the outlaw Sam Bass used the cave as a hideout, and during the Civil War, the Confederate Army made and stored its gunpowder there. In the early 1900s, it was used as a dance hall and place of worship by a local church.
On select weekends, Longhorn Cavern features live concerts inside the caves. The larger rooms have wonderful natural acoustics, making the sounds of cymbals, flutes, and voices reverberate in ways that both concertgoers and musicians have described as “spiritual.” Concert dates and details change, so check the cavern’s website for current information.
Inner Space Cavern
In Georgetown just about an hour north of Austin, Inner Space Cavern
is one of the best-preserved caves in Texas and one of the few places where prehistoric remains are found. The cavern’s standard cave tour is the Adventure Tour through Inner Space’s living cavern along a well-lit pathway. The Hidden Passages tour is for the more adventurous explorers and goes through an undeveloped trail of the cave. Tour guides provides guests with flashlights in order to explore delicate formations including columns, flowstone, waves of transparent calcite called drapery and soda straws, thin hollow tubes of slowly dripping calcite.
The cavern’s most challenging tour is the Wild Cave tour, which occurs on Saturdays and Sundays and is available to guests 13 years and older. The tour features off-trail spelunking through undeveloped sections of the cave, so visitors can’t be afraid to get dirty! While demanding, the Wild Cave tour requires no previous caving experience.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Located in San Antonio, Natural Bridge Caverns
is the largest commercial cave in the state. The Castle of the White
Giants has the largest formations in the cavern, yet the Hall of the Mountain King is equally majestic and is 100 feet high with spectacular formations covering the ceiling, walls and floor. In the cavern’s original tour, the Discovery Tour, visitors go 180 feet below ground and see ancient formations that are still growing today, such as amazing stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones, chandeliers and soda straws.
The first tour each day is the Lantern Tour, which is only offered in the morning. Guests explore caverns with only the light of their lantern, just as discoverers did decades ago. Serious spelunkers will enjoy the Hidden Passages Tour, a demanding exploration in which visitors will climb, crawl and rappel through the caverns. The Discovery Adventure Tour presents another challenging excursion, and visitors will travel a one and a quarter mile path through both paved trails and wild passages.
In addition to the caverns, visitors can take part in the Canopy Challenge, a high ropes course and zip line over the Texas Hill Country. Other activities include the family-friendly above ground maze or gem and fossil mining.
The Cave without a Name
North of San Antonio in Bouerne, Texas, The Cave without a Name
was designated as such in 1939, when a local student won the town’s naming contest. The student explained, “The cave is too pretty to have a name,” and it has been called the Cave without a Name ever since.
A National Natural Landmark, the Cave without a Name has six rooms of extraordinary formations, including the Grapes, calcite formations that look like a bunch of grapes and have been observed only in the cave’s caverns. Tours depart throughout the day and are about an hour long.
Similar to Longhorn Cavern, the Cave without a Name features live concerts in the caverns on select weekends. Check the cavern’s website for information on concert dates.
Caverns of Sonora
The Caverns of Sonora
are an oasis along Interstate 10 and mark the halfway point between San Antonio, Texas and Big Bend National Park in west Texas. Bill Stephenson, founder of the National Speleological Society, said, “The beauty of the Caverns of Sonora cannot be exaggerated, not even by a Texan.”
One of the caverns’ beautiful tours is the Crystal Palace Tour, an intimate, guided walking tour for 12 people or less through almost two miles of highly decorated cave passages. Adventure-seekers will love the cavern’s four-hour Discovery Challenge, an unforgettable adventure through a maze of off-trail passageways. Those partaking in the Discovery Challenge rappel fifty feet into the Devil’s Pit to experience firsthand the thrill of navigating the cave.
After a long day of exploring, visitors are invited to camp on the ranch like grounds above the caverns, in tents or RVs.
From north of Austin down to San Antonio, the caverns of Texas show visitors that the Lone Star State is just as beautiful below ground as above. Whether you prefer to follow a guided path or crawl through uncharted territory, Texas caves have just the right amount of adventure for you.
Go on an expedition through some of the best caves and underground caverns in the world, right here in Texas. It’s a great way to escape the heat and discover a hidden side of Texas that most people don’t know about. Descend deep into the Earth and explore their unique and amazing formations today.