One of the natural features I often enjoy visiting on my travels are caves. I’m not a caver, but I seem to find myself in many places that have caves and cave tours, and it’s rare for me to pass up an opportunity to explore yet another one. In fact, I’ve been to more than 20 of them—including most of the public caves in the National Park System. In no particular order, here’s the list:
- Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Monument (California)
- Crystal Cave, Sequoia National Park (California)
- Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
- Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)
- Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)
- Peppersauce Cave (Arizona)
- Fort Stanton Cave, Ft Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (New Mexico)
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Utah)
- Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)
- Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
- Kartchner Caverns State Park (Arizona)
- Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark (County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland)
- Sea Lion Caves (Oregon)
- Grand Canyon Caverns (Arizona)
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)
- Colossal Cave (Arizona)
- Mitchell Cavern, Providence Mountains State Rec Area (California)
- Lava tubes, Lava Beds National Monument (California)
- Oregon Caves National Monument (Oregon)
- Lava tube near Flagstaff (Arizona)
- Lava tubes, El Malpais National Monument (New Mexico)
- Lava tubes, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)
- Lava tube, Mojave National Preserve (California)
- Thurston Lava Tube, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
This list is current as of April 2011.
The links above are to photos I’ve taken at each place—though mind you, it’s not always easy to take good snapshots inside a cave. I have several more albums to post, and I’ll update the links once I get those photos up.
My favorite caves include Carlsbad Caverns (there really isn’t one that can compare to it), Kartchner Caverns (Arizona’s best state park), and the Sea Lion Caves (great childhood memory and my only sea cave). I enjoy the occasional lava river tube, but I’ve seen enough of them now that each new one is less and less exciting. Of all of them, I think I was most disappointed with the world’s longest: Mammoth Cave. I attribute that to high expectations and the fact that we took a 4-mile, 4.5 hour tour where we only saw great formations in the last 200 yards or so. Several of these caves are less than spectacular, but still make for a fun stop if you’re driving by.
I have the distinct pleasure of working with the folks at the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project on the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (an area of the National Conservation Lands) and there’s some great science happening there.
Note that several of these parks—particularly the ones with lava tube formations—have several separate caves that I’ve wandered through, but I’m only counting them as one for this list.
What’s your favorite cave? Which one should be on my list?