92ºF

Venture underground: 6 family-friendly Texas caves worth exploring this summer

Natural Bridge Caverns
Natural Bridge Caverns (Natural Bridge Caverns, Facebook)

When you’re ready to tackle an adventure beyond your own backyard, grab your headlamp, and get ready to head underground and explore these six showstopping Texas caves centuries in the making.

Cave Without a Name

North of San Antonio in Boerne, Texas, wind your way down 126 steps, approximately 80 feet, into the 66-degree netherworld known as The Cave Without a Name. Venture through a world of frozen waterfalls and crystal clear pools. Open for public tours since 1939, the Cave without a Name boasts six sizable chambers.

If you take a took a tour, keep your eyes peeled for Texas-sized cave bacon, a collection of stalagmites resembling the nativity scene, and, in the winter months, some slumbering bats.

A National Natural Landmark, the cavern is a frequent site of underground musical performances.

325 Kreutzberg Road, Boerne; cavewithoutaname.com

Inner Space Cavern

Inner Space Cavern, located in Georgetown, is considered one of the best-preserved caves in Texas. Discovered by a Texas Highway Department core drilling team in the spring of 1963 and opened to the public in the summer of 1966, the cave contains delicate formations, large chambers, prehistoric animal bones and a near-constant 72-degree temperature.

Three different tours are offered.

4200 S. I-35, Georgetown; innerspacecavern.com

Longhorn Cavern State Park

An hour and a half northwest of Austin in Burnet, Longhorn Cavern State Park’s namesake attraction is Longhorn Cavern, open daily for tours since 1938.

Two different tours are offered. The 90-minute Cavern Walking Tour is the most popular and offers a 1.1 mile round-trip viewing of Longhorn Caverns while the 2 to 3-hour Wild Cave Tour offers more thrills and a deeper descent. Expect to wriggle, crawl and use special caving gear on this tour.

Underground temperatures remain around 68 degrees.

6211 Park Road 4 S, Burnet; visitlonghorncavern.com

Natural Bridge Caverns

Located west of New Braunfels, deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state and registered United States National Natural Landmark.

The cavern was discovered in March 1960 and opened for public tours in 1964. It’s chambers are colossal, some ceilings as high as 100 feet. The room known as the Castle of the White Giants contains the largest formations in the cavern, including a flowstone formation called the Bomb Burst and the cavern’s tallest column dubbed The Watchtower. The Hall of the Mountain King, the largest room, is over 100 feet wide and 350 feet in length.

Several different tours are offered. Get up early enough and you can take the popular Lantern Tour, the first tour of the day. On this tour, visitors traverse the cave’s passages illuminated only by the light of handheld lanterns, just like the original cave’s discoverers did decades ago. Other tours include the Discovery Tour, Hidden Passages Tour and the Adventure Tour.

The cavern’s perpetual 70-degree temperature is a delight. It’s near-constant 99 percent humidity, however, is a smidge less than. Pro tip: Bring shoes with decent traction. The floors are sometimes slippery.

Finished your tour and craving even more adventure? Head back above ground and participate in the Canopy Challenge, a high ropes course, zip line over the Texas Hill Country or mine for minerals and fossils.

26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio; naturalbridgecaverns.com

Caverns of Sonora

About fifteen miles southwest of the town of Sonora, the Caverns of Sonora marks the halfway point between San Antonio, TX and Big Bend National Park. Discovered in 1955 and opened for public tours in 1960, the cave system boasts seven miles of passageways packed with delicate formations like soda straws, cave coral, helictites and frosty Christmas trees.

Bill Stephenson, founder of the National Speleological Society, said, “The beauty of the Caverns of Sonora cannot be exaggerated, not even by a Texan.”

Visitors, no need for sweters; the cave’s got a constant 70-degree temperature and a whopping 98-percent humidity. And wear some good walking shoes. During the tour, expect to descend 360 steps to a depth of 155 ft. below the surface.

1711 Pvt Rd 4468, Sonora; cavernsofsonora.com

Kickapoo Cavern State Park

Kickapoo Cavern State Park has 20 known caves. It’s biggest is Kickapoo Cavern, about 1,400 feet long. Park staff lead cave tours of Kickapoo Cavern each Saturday.

Tours are by reservation only and limited to a maximum of 10 people.The cave is undeveloped and the hike through the cave is somewhat strenuous. Wear closed-toed shoes with good traction and bring along light sources like a head lamp or handheld flashlight or lantern.

Reserve you tickets online here.

20939 Ranch to Market Road 674, Brackettville; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/kickapoo-cavern

-----

Don’t get caught off guard. Before going, familiarize yourself with adjusted hours and follow guidelines around social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures required by the destinations you visit.


About the Author: