caverns near Gatlinburg

Hey there, outdoor enthusiasts! Are you itching to explore one of the coolest outdoor things to do in the Smokies? Well, buckle up because we’re about to embark on an underground adventure like no other! These caverns near Gatlinburg are an absolute must-visit. Let’s check them out!

Forbidden Caverns welcome sign

Caverns Near Gatlinburg

Forbidden Caverns

First, we’ve got the Forbidden Caverns, a stone’s throw away from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, nestled in Sevierville. This underground wonderland is a half-mile journey into the English Mountain and a favorite in Sevier County. It’s a cool 58 degrees year-round, so that a light jacket might be a savvy move​​​​​​​​.

As you enter the cave, various stunning formations surround you. Stalactites and stalagmites reach out to each other in a slow, centuries-old dance. The sound of dripping water echoes softly, creating an almost meditative atmosphere. A natural stream also flows through the cave, adding a serene soundtrack to your exploration.

Forbidden Caverns is a seasonal wonder. It closes in December and re-opens in April. This break lets the caverns rest and rejuvenate. It makes sure every visit is as magical as the last. So, plan your visit to see this underground wonderland at its best.

Tuckaleechee Caverns

Tuckaleechee Caverns

Next, let’s talk about the Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, TN. Named after the Cherokee word for “peaceful valley,” Tuckaleechee Caverns hold a special place in the region’s history and lore. The guided tours here allow you to witness incredible stalagmites and stalactites of all shapes and sizes.

The caverns house an array of natural formations, including a river so pure you could drink from it, stunning Silver Falls, and millions of cave formations, some towering over 20 feet tall. One of the most breathtaking features of Tuckaleechee Caverns is the “Big Room,” which lives up to its name and then some. The Big Room stretches over 400 feet long, 300 feet across, and 150 feet deep. It’s as big as a football field! It’s a humbling experience to stand amid such grandeur, surrounded by the Earth’s natural architecture.

You can visit the peaceful valley’s subterranean wonders during different times of the year. From March 1st to March 31st, you can visit from 10 am to 5 pm. From April 1st to October 31st, you can visit from 10 am to 6 pm. And from November 1st to November 30th, you can visit from 10 am to 5 pm. These hours give you plenty of time to explore and enjoy the valley’s underground beauty.

caves near Gatlinburg

Caves Near Gatlinburg

Gregory’s Cave

Onward to Gregory’s Cave, located in the Cades Cove area. While it’s no longer open for public exploration, the journey to its entrance is still a worthwhile experience. The cave, known for its expansive single passage, spans 20 to 55 feet in width with a ceiling height of around 15 feet, echoing a cathedral-like grandeur. Although visitors can no longer walk through its interior, the approach to Gregory’s Cave is an opportunity to appreciate its imposing entrance and the surrounding landscape, offering a glimpse into the region’s natural wonders. 

Fun fact: Gregory’s Cave was the first cave in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to be commercialized in the roaring ’20s. The cave, under the enterprising spirit of J.J. Gregory, was equipped with wooden walkways and electric lights, making it a marvel of its time. Imagine the wonder and excitement of those early visitors, experiencing the underground world in a way never before possible. It’s a piece of history and natural beauty combined​​​​​​​​.

Lost Mine Falls

Lost Mine Falls

It’s not your typical cave, but Lost Mine Falls is a must-see for waterfall lovers. To access Lost Mine Falls, go to Foxfire Mountain Adventures. Lush greenery and the gentle sounds of nature surround the path leading to Lost Mine Falls, setting the stage for the awe-inspiring view that awaits. With each step, the anticipation builds until the breathtaking beauty of the waterfall greets you.

And what a sight it is! The waterfall cascades gracefully, dropping 60 feet into a crystal-clear pool below. But wait, there’s more! The real showstopper here is the 30-foot-long Cliffhanger Swinging Bridge. A thrilling sense of adventure washes over you as you step onto the bridge. Suspended above the falls, you can peer down into the pooling water below, feeling the waterfall’s power and peace. The moment is exhilaratingly beautiful. It offers a perspective that transforms your experience into something like exploring a cave. Each step reveals something new and majestic.

Bear Cave's stalactites reflected in an underground body of water

Bear Cave

Known for its stunning formations, Bear Cave stands out even in an area renowned for its natural beauty. Unfortunately, it has faced challenges preserving its pristine condition, particularly from the impact of careless visitors.

Now, here’s where it gets fascinating. Scientists have stumbled upon a new life form in Bear Cave that’s straight out of a sci-fi movie! Picture this: a hydra-like anemone, not your typical garden variety, but something that seems to belong in the ocean. This little creature shakes our understanding of how life evolved from water to land. It’s like finding a piece of the evolutionary puzzle in our backyard!

Scientists have been discovering new species here that are still being studied. Did I mention the green algae? This stuff thrives on bat guano and is a key player in the cave’s ecosystem. Talk about a circle of life!

Bear Cave is a real-life nature lab. With guided tours, you’re not just exploring a cave. You’re diving into a story millions of years in the making. If you’re up for a bit of adventure and a lot of wonders, the caves near Gatlinburg are your ticket to a fantastic experience!

the mouth of Alum Cave leads to a forested hiking trail

Alum Cave

The Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, a mere 12 miles south of Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers more than meets the eye. While ‘Alum Cave’ suggests a subterranean wonder, it’s a misnomer. What awaits hikers is not a cave but an impressive overhang of black slate that extends over the trail, creating a cave-like illusion. This striking natural feature gets its name from the alum deposits along its walls, adding to the trail’s allure. The hike to this remarkable spot provides stunning views and a rewarding challenge, culminating at the summit of Mt. Le Conte.

So, there you have it, folks! The caves near Gatlinburg are not just holes in the ground but portals to ancient times, natural spectacles, and breathtaking beauty. While exploring inside these caves is prohibited for safety reasons and to protect endangered bat species, the journey to these natural wonders is an adventure in itself. Whether you’re a seasoned spelunker or just looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon, these caverns near Gatlinburg are sure to impress you. Pack your sense of adventure and maybe a camera, because you’ll want to remember these moments!

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About Andy Rowe

Andy Rowe is an experienced Writer and Content Designer with a passion for storytelling. He earned his Masters of Business Administration while living abroad in Taiwan and has spent the past 6 years honing his skills in copy writing, social media content, and thought leadership. Andy has a talent for research and the ability to adapt this writing style to different audiences. When he’s not writing, Andy enjoys traveling, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and reading.

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