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. It’s important to remember that exploring caves out in nature is dangerous and for experienced hikers only, so opt instead for one of these fun day trips where you’ll be guided along your underground journey.
Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Through September 4 (Labor Day) there will be tours of the mine every day at 1 pm; make a reservation for the tour in advance. From there, visitors will be guided through the mine itself, receiving information about its history, working conditions and geology as we cover about 1,300 feet of tunnel. Bring a light jacket or sweatshirt as it is 56 degrees in the mine. You 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. The museums are only available with the tour. Then, come the fall, there are special haunted walking tours and ghost hunts.
Sybil’s Cave Park
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— an underground structure and the first “show cave” to open in Pennsylvania— is known for its many crystalline, milky-white formations. 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. 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.
Indian Echo Caverns
This cave, formed from over 440 million-year-old Beekmantown limestone, contains a variety of wildlife. 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.
This is Pennsylvania’s largest cave. Visitors can enjoy spelunking, mining for gemstones, or checking out the views from Chestnut Ridge via the family lookout. There are over 4 miles of passages. You can also take a virtual tour from the comforts of your own home – but it’s much prettier to check out in person.
Lost River Caverns
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.
Lincoln Caverns & Whisper Rocks
The Lincoln Caverns contain an abundance of speleothems— that is, “cave formations”— from flostones and stalactites to crystals. Take a one-hour interpretive tour of Lincoln Caverns and Whisper Rocks. You get an educational and enjoyable experience, while preserving the natural beauty and splendor of the caverns for everyone.
Penn’s Cave & Wildlife Park
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 you 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!
Head underground with the Signature Rock Discovery Tour, a 2-and-a-half-hour exploration into areas of the caverns that had 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 tour156 feet underground that includes a boat ride.
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. There’s a snowshoe trail here, too – and an ice cream shop, if you’re not too cold from all the exploring.
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-foot underground waterfall.