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The 5 Best National Parks with Caves to Explore

Going into a cave is a unique experience. You enter a whole new world with creatures that live in the dark and have evolved to do so. If you want this experience, plenty of national parks in the U.S. have amazing caves to explore.

Some parks are based solely around caves, while others are less known for their caverns. Consider visiting one of these parks with caves and taking a guided tour for a whole new adventure.

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

national parks with caves

Mammoth Cave National Park is the most-visited national park with “cave” in its name. The park in Kentucky covers parts of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world. Visitors can hike down into the cave for a guided tour with the help of a park ranger. Short self-guided tours are only allowed seasonally. Guests can make reservations for more than a dozen tours, making it a fantastic experience for anyone who wants an introduction to spelunking.

2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

carlsbad caverns

Visiting Carlsbad Caverns is similar to Mammoth in some ways, but Carlsbad Caverns also has one of the largest rooms in the world. Called the “Big Room,” the massive chamber allows self-guided tours along a path that guests can either hike to or take an elevator to access. For those feeling adventurous, you can hire one of several guide companies to explore other caverns in the national park. You can make reservations online.

3. Wind Cave National Park

national parks for caving

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota is known for having “two worlds.” The first is the cave, and the second is prairie land that is home to tons of wildlife. Going into a cave will allow you to explore the unique rock walls and honeycomb-like chambers. Meanwhile, on the prairie, visitors will find elk and bison roaming the park. Similar to the other two cave-focused parks, Wind Cave allows reservations. There are no self-guided tours, so you’ll have to explore with a ranger.

4. Sequoia National Park

caves in national parks

While Sequoia National Park is best known for its massive trees, it is also littered with caves. Park officials say there are at least 240 known caves in the California park. However, only Crystal Cave is accessible to the public. Unfortunately, the cave is closed for the 2023 season due to a damaged road, but when it is open, guests can take a guided half-mile tour.

5. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

national parks with caves

Most caves are “solution caves,” which form by water seeping into rocks and cracks. However, the cave in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is actually formed by lava tubes. Fortunately, you won’t find hot, flowing lava in Nāhuku, also known as Thurston Lava Tube, which you can access via a short hike. No reservations are needed to visit the cave, but guests are asked not to touch the walls within the lava tube.

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