The state of Tennessee is full of opportunities for outdoor adventure. White-water rafting, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking are all ways to enjoy the great outdoors. One experience that visitors shouldn’t miss is the opportunity to explore Tennessee caves. Throughout the state, it is possible to take a Tennessee cave tour and descend into the depths of these caverns. Top choices include Cumberland Caverns, Bell Witch Cave, and Big Bone Cave.
Cumberland Caverns are located in the heart of Tennessee between Nashville, Gatlinburg, and Chattanooga. If you’re visiting Fall Creek Falls State Park, these caverns are only a short drive away. As one of the most popular Tennessee caves, Cumberland Caverns are open daily for scenic walking tours all year long. Discovered in 1810, these caverns are a US National Natural Landmark.
Bell Witch Cave
Another great Tennessee cave tour is at Bell Witch Cave. Tours here are offered daily between 10 am and 5 pm. This attraction is much more than just a natural phenomenon; it is also the location of a spooky occurrence in America’s history. It was in this same location that a ghost named Kate is said to have tormented John Bell and his family in the early 1800s. This story is a local legend, and you will learn details when visiting this cave.
Big Bone Cave
For a more traditional Tennessee cave tour, visit Big Bone Cave. The name is derived from a discovery made in 1811 of the fossil skeleton of a giant ground sloth. A variety of other remains and human artifacts have also been discovered in this cave. Public tours of these Tennessee caves are available by contacting Rock Island State Park.
Another extensive cave system in Tennessee is Craighead Caverns. It is best known for the country’s largest underground lake, called the Lost Sea. Visitors flock to see this site along with a variety of stalagmites, stalactites, and a waterfall. This attraction is located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains and was formerly a meeting place for Cherokees. Visiting these caves is a historical experience as well as an outdoor adventure.
Dunbar Cave State Park
If you’re looking for a cave system close to Nashville, check out Dunbar Cave State Park. Located 60 miles northwest of Nashville, this state park is popular for fishing, hiking and picnicking. Do check ahead before visiting to make sure the caves are open to the public; as of 2010 they were closed.
Raccoon Mountain Caverns
To see an incredible range of rock formations, check out Raccoon Mountain Caverns. Located near Chattanooga, this cave system offers a great 45-minute walking tour that will expose you to the depths of the caves. These guided tours are focused on conservation and preservation, so be sure to listen to your guide and don't leave anything behind during your tour.
Another famous cave system is Tuckaleechee Caverns. Considered one of the best sites in the Great Smoky Mountains, these caverns offer guided tours. The caves are closed in the winter, and opening hours vary throughout the rest of the year, so plan ahead if you’re vacationing in the national park and want to visit the caves.
Whether you choose Cumberland Caverns, Bell Witch Cave, or Big Bone Cave, you will be glad you explored this side of Tennessee. Other outdoor adventure activities include camping, boating, and hiking to waterfalls. If you’re looking for more urban adventures, check out the attractions of Nashville and Memphis. Top attractions across the state include the Jack Daniels Distillery, Dollywood, Graceland, and the Tennessee Aquarium.