For families trying to escape the rising temperatures, there is always the beach or the pool. But there is another option, one that will allow you to skip the sunscreen and head underground: visit one of these local caves, and you may even find yourself pulling on a sweatshirt. With destinations including different attractions offered at varying prices, this list has options perfect for both casual, spontaneous hours in nature and for days that will be remembered as summer highlights.
Crooked Swamp Cave— Lafayette Township
Located within an 18-acre marsh complex at the headwaters of the Paulinskill River, this narrow passage is widely considered the longest cave in New Jersey. The cave is currently managed under agreement with the NJ Cave Conservancy, which allows visitors to arrange guided underground tours. Because spelunking experience is required, budding cave enthusiasts might want to explore some other caves before attempting to visit this one. Contact the New Jersey Lands Trust (via the number above) for more information about scheduling a tour.
Fairy Hole Cave— Warren County
This 30’ x 15’ cave is a key feature on the Ghost Lake & Fairy Holy cave hike in the Jenny Jump State Forest. The cave was first excavated by archaeologist Dr. Dorothy Cross as part of the Indian Site Survey of New Jersey, leading to the discovery of Lenape artifacts and bones from over 23 mammal species, including the extinct Giant Beaver. Now, you can visit on your own for free. The full hike to and from the cave is 5-6 miles long and will feature lakes and panoramic views— but for families with small children (or anyone who wants to avoid extra walking), parking in the lot on Shade of Death Road will allow for more direct access to the cave.
Marble Ice Cave— Phillipsburg
Accessible via the 1.9-mile Warren-Highlands Trail— which is, in its own right, perfect for bird watching, casual hiking, and nature trips— this ice cave is a great destination for families who want the experience of exploring without having to endure an overly-strenuous hike. The cave itself contains amazing rock formations and (sometimes) incredible icicles. However, while the trail is beautiful no matter the season, it is best used from March through October.
Sterling Hill Mining Museum— Ogdensburg
This mine and museum destination, which temporarily shut its doors due to COVID, will be reopening for scheduled tours on July 1. Visitors must reserve a spot on one of the 1 pm tours at least 5 days in advance in order to enter. From there, they will be guided through the mine itself, receiving information about its history, working conditions, and geology as they cover about 1,300 feet of tunnel. They will also be able to tour two mining-related museums: the Warren Museum of Fluorescence, which contains a “Color Wall” displaying 100 fluorescent mineral specimens— and the Zobel Hall Museum, in which guests can learn more about the daily life of a miner. Price: $13/adults, $12/seniors, $10/children from ages 4-12 (kids under 4 can tour for free!)
Sybil’s Cave Park— Hoboken
This twice-excavated, man-made cave is more than just 30 feet of space and a natural spring; it is also an eerie true-crime hotspot. In 1841, Mary Rogers, dubbed the “Beautiful Cigar Girl” by the press, was found murdered nearby. As a result, the cave was briefly a destination for gawkers, only to fade into obscurity until 2007, when it was rediscovered, re-excavated, and fitted with a new gate. Visitors today can enjoy a view of the Manhattan skyline and step back in time to what was considered a Victorian-era “rural retreat.”
Crystal Cave— Kutztown
Crystal Cave— an underground structure and the first “show cave” to open in Pennsylvania— is known for its many crystalline, milky-white formations. Though the cave is currently only operating at 2/3rds capacity, it is still open from 9 am-5 pm. Visitors who opt for an hour-long tour will be led 125 feet underground by guides and will have the opportunity to view a film detailing the geology of caves. For a taste of what’s to come, you can even check out the “virtual tour” on the Crystal Cave website. Plus, as it spans 150 acres, this historic attraction truly has something for everyone, from mini-golf and an ice cream parlor to a museum, rock shop, gemstone panning and a hiking trail. Price: $17/ages 12+, $13/ages 4-11.
Indian Echo Caverns— Himmelstown
This cave, formed from over 440 million-year-old Beekmantown limestone, contains a variety of wildlife and is open to the public from 9 am-5 pm daily. Guests can enjoy 45-minute guided tours, during which they will learn about the geology and history of the caverns while viewing the beautiful rock and mineral formations they contain. Plus, kids will love feeding the animals at the Discovery Barnyard, panning for gems and fossils at the Gem Mill Junction, and taking a break at the playground. Tour Prices: $20/adults 12 and older, $19/seniors, $12/children ages 2-11 (children under 2 can tour for free).
Laurel Caverns— Farmington
Farmington, PA, is home to the state’s largest cave: the Laurel Caverns. Visitors can enjoy spelunking or check out the views from Chestnut Ridge via the family lookout. The Caverns are open every week, Wednesday through Sunday, from 9:30 am to 4 pm, and, though reservations are not required, all tours are currently self-guided due to social-distancing restrictions. Price: $15/adults, $10/ages 5-17 (free for children younger than 5).
Lost River Caverns— Hellertown
At the Lost River Caverns, you can learn, shop, and explore. The caverns themselves contain 1200 feet of paved, lit walkways, which can be experienced via a walking tour, as well as a rock shop and a souvenir shop. Enjoy the 1800 foot nature trail or pan for gems at the Gem Mill before checking out the many gems, fossils, minerals and antiquities at the Gilman Museum.You can even bring a picnic basket and eat a scenic lunch at Picnic Grove. Price: $14.50/adults, $9.50/children (free for children younger than 3).
Lincoln Caverns— Huntingdon
The Lincoln Caverns contain an abundance of speleothems— that is, “cave formations”— from flostones and stalactites to crystals. The caverns are open from 9 am-5 pm, 7 days a week, with special events including T-Rex Tuesdays and Wednesday Blacklight Adventures. If interested, you can make an appointment for a tour— or, if you would rather not plan ahead, you can always join one of the regularly-scheduled tours, which leave every few minutes. Picnic pavilions, nature trails, and a meditation chapel are available for free. Cavern Tour Prices: $18.98/adults, $11.98/children ages 4-12.
Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park— Centre Hall
This park-and-cavern attraction is truly a must for anyone seeking a truly unique cave experience! Penn’s Cave is America’s only all-water cavern, and visitors can enjoy a fully-guided cavern tour by boat. The park also features a farm— which can be experienced via a farm, nature, and wildlife park tour— and the Cave Rock Mountain Tour is available for anyone who wants to head up to the mountaintop. You can even pan for gemstones! Families can either purchase an advance ticket online or buy one from the Visitors Center upon arrival. For more information about prices— which vary based on the tour package you’d like to purchase— visit this page.
Wind Cave— Pequea
Located on the Eastern bank of the Susquehanna River, Wind Cave is known as one of the more dangerous places in Lancaster County, so make sure not to venture down into its 2,000 feet of dark passages on your own (and probably not with small children, either)! The potential risk doesn’t mean you should avoid the cave, though: not only is it the largest tectonic cave in the state, but it also provides a welcome respite from the summer heat with its “refrigerator-like” coldness.
Squaw Cave— Bolton
Located in Bolton Notch State Park, this cave may be small (it is, in fact, only four meters long), but it happens to be one of the only caves in all of Connecticut., and it is publicly accessible (and free)!
Dinosaur Caves— Voluntown
The Dinosaur caves, which can be found near the Rhode Island border, are accessible via the Narrangansett and Tippecansett trails. Visitors can take a 3-mile round trip hike to and from these rocky overhangs and large boulders. Of the two caves, the “upper” is a large rock fissure— through which adventurous spelunkers can “squeeze,” if they are so inclined— and the “lower” is a well-defined rock overhang. Contrary to what the name might suggest, the caves were created by glaciers, not by dinosaurs.
Natural Stone Bridge and Caves— Pottersville
At the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, you have your pick of serious spelunking or more relaxed fun: self-guided tours on the above-ground nature trail expose visitors to Adirondack geology and lighted caves/grottos, while 3-4 hour guided spelunking tours are perfect for those who are at least 13 years old and want more of an adventure. The caves are open daily from 9 am- 6 pm, and tickets should be purchased online in advance to insure availability. Visitors should arrive 15 minutes before their designated start time. Additional activities include a disc golf course (which can be accessed by those who pay the tour fee) and gem mining. Self-Guided Cave Trail Price: $16.95/adults, $8.95/children. Adventure Tour Price: $125/adults (13+).
Howe Caverns— Howes Cave
Opportunities for adventure abound at the Howe Caverns! Head underground with the Signature Rock Discovery Tour, a 2-and-a-half hour exploration into areas of the caverns that have not been open to the public for a century or try the 2-hour guided spelunking tour. If you’re looking for a more straightforward cave exploration experience, try the “traditional tour,” a 90-minute walking tour with a boat ride. Traditional Cave tours are currently available by reservation only and must be purchased online. The Caverns are open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm until July 1; beginning July 2, they will extend their hours from 9 am- 5 pm. Prices vary according to the tour package you select.
Secret Caverns – Howes Cave
If you are heading to Howe Caverns, you’ll see a bunch of bright and colorful signs for Secret Caverns. This offbeat cave has a completely unique vibe, and boasts a 100 ft. underground waterfall. Tours are available on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday from 10-4 tours go down every hour on the hour. Tickets are $18 for adults $10 for kids 6-12, and 5 and under are free. Cash only.
Beaver Valley Cave— New Castle County
Sure, it’s only 56 feet long. But Beaver Valley Cave is still a noteworthy Delaware destination, mostly because it happens to be the state’s only cave. The cave also sheltered both British deserters during the American Revolution and traveling Native Americans. Plus, it provided inspiration for the meeting place in the Dead Poets Society.