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A Subterranean Odyssey through Shenandoah Valley’s Caverns

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The Shenandoah Valley is famous for its incredible mountain landscapes, but did you know beautiful vistas can also be enjoyed underground in the Valleys caverns? Soft limestone and dolostone comprise much of the area’s bedrock, and millions of years of underground water flow have washed away the softest rock. Extensive underground cavern systems are left behind, and in them, unique structures form from accumulated minerals. Here’s our guide to caverns that are open commercially to the public. 

Caverns at Natural Bridge / 6313 S. Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578

Open year-round, the Caverns at Natural Bridge are distinct for being the deepest on the East Coast. They descend 34 stories into the earth! Guided tours last 45 minutes, and visitors can see a variety of formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones, as well as several species of salamanders, insects, and bats. Highlights include the Colossal Dome Room, Mirror Lake, the Well Room, and the Canyon Room.

A Subterranean Odyssey Through Shenandoah Valley S Caverns

If you want to make a day of it, treat the kids to the Gem Mine Sluice and stretch your legs on the adjacent 1.8-mile Buck Hill Trail. This trail is part of Natural Bridge State Park, which includes the smaller Salt Peter Cave, the 215-foot natural limestone arch, additional hiking trails, and the children’s discovery area and TRACK Trail. Follow this with a visit with the animals at the drive-thru Virginia Safari Park and a homemade lunch at the Pink Cadillac Diner. Finally, kick back and enjoy a small-batch craft flight at Halcyon Days Cider Co. or Great Valley Farm Brewery and Winery. If you have a long drive home, stock up with hoop cheese and other snacks from Layne’s Country Store.

Grand Caverns / 5 Grand Caverns Drive | Grottoes, VA 24441

Open since 1806, Grand Caverns is the oldest commercial “show cave” in the country and a National Natural Landmark. Visitors can take a 70-minute walking tour or opt to get dirty on one of the extensive rugged tours. Don’t miss the Subterranean Sound Concerts (through March 23) for a chance to hear fantastic music in a one-of-a-kind venue. The Grand Caverns Park has many trails for hiking and biking, fishing access, a mini-golf course, and a playground.

A Subterranean Odyssey Through Shenandoah Valley S Caverns

History buffs won’t want to miss nearby Melrose Caverns and the hundreds of Civil War-era signatures that both Union and Confederate soldiers scratched on the walls. You’ll get a workout on a tour of Endless Caverns’ (New Market) six-plus miles of subterranean passages and rooms. Highlights include natural basins and shield formations. Nearby cabins, camping, and hiking make this a great vacation destination.

Have some pan or specialty gourmet pizza at Wood Fired Oven or Ciro’s Flying Pizza. Valley Pike Farm Market has several options, including signature deli sandwiches, coffee drinks, Virginia wine and beer, ice cream, and other sweet treats, and onsite food trucks Valley Pike BBQ, Old School Burgers, and Baja Burrito. Cave Hill Farms Brewery serves up tasty craft beer and bar food on a working farm that grows the barley and hops that go into the beer.

Shenandoah Caverns / 261 Caverns Rd Quicksburg, VA 22847

Millions of years of underground rivers and acid-bearing water seepage formed Quicksburg’s 64-acre Shenandoah Caverns. The elevator-accessible guided tour teaches visitors about the unique crystalline formations in 17 rooms, including the enormous Long View Hall. Also, get your camera ready for Diamond Cascade, Rainbow Lake, and the Breakfast Bacon formations that were featured in National Geographic. Your visit shouldn’t end with the caverns: Catch a blast of nostalgia at the onsite Main Street of Yesteryear and American Celebration on Parade exhibits that let visitors get close to intricate animated store window displays and historic parade floats. 

Next, grab lunch at Caverns Café, where you’ll find 1950s ambiance and a menu of burgers, sandwiches, and old-fashioned milkshakes. After lunch, tour the nearby Route 11 Potato Chip Factory and relax over a wine tasting at Third Winery at DeMello Vineyard. If you’re still hungry, order a spread of Lloyd’s famous fried chicken, peanut soup, and peanut butter pie at the Southern Kitchen.

A Subterranean Odyssey Through Shenandoah Valley S Caverns

The Strasburg Visitor and Information Center offers a self-guided walking trail through the woods with interpretive signage about the karst landscape and glimpses into a cavern below. 

Skyline Caverns / 10344 Stonewall Jackson Highway, Front Royal, Virginia 22630

Named an underground wonder when Walter S. Amos discovered it in 1937, Skyline Caverns has wowed countless guests over the years. The one-hour guided tours are small in size, leading to a more personal experience, and the award-winning lighting system makes exploring this cave system an amazing adventure. You’ll learn about the site’s rare anthodite crystals that grow starlike in all directions. These include the Chandelier, the cavern’s largest and oldest of this type. Don’t forget to stop in the Rock Shop to add to your rock and crystal collection at home. You’ll also want to ride the Skyline Arrow Miniature Train and explore the Enchanted Dragon Mirror Maze. 

A Subterranean Odyssey Through Shenandoah Valley S Caverns

After exploring the caverns, enjoy the above-ground topography with a hike in Shenandoah National Park or Shenandoah River State Park. The caverns are also close to Front Royal Outdoors, a watersport adventure company that will put you on the water in a raft, canoe, tube, or stand-up paddleboard. If the day doesn’t lend itself to outdoor fun, hone your skills at the Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Company or the Fireball Arcade, which is packed with classic games. End the day at The Apple House where you can put the finishing touches on your meal with incredible apple butter donuts!

Luray Caverns / 101 Cave Hill Rd, Luray, VA 22835

Escape the sun at Luray Caverns, the largest and best-known cavern in the eastern U.S. This famous cavern has been open to tourists since 1880, and Civil War photographer Matthew Brady took some of the earliest cave photographs here. Formations include stalactites, stalagmites, columns, thin sheets of rock called draperies, and rooms with ceilings as high as ten stories. Paved and lighted walkways lead to impressive formations like the Great Stalactite Organ, Dream Lake, and Giant’s Hall. Visitors to this popular cavern enjoy making wishes and tossing coins into the Wishing Well pool near the entrance. Other onsite attractions include the giant Garden Maze and the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum where you learn about the history of vehicular transportation. Overcome your fear of heights on two levels of challenge at the Rope Adventure Park.

Luray Caverns

The caverns are located near an entrance to Shenandoah National Park, so plan on a short hike like Stony Man Mountain or a drive along the Skyline Drive. Luray’s downtown is a National Historic District and is definitely worth a visit after the caverns. West Main Market serves up delicious sandwiches, wraps, and soup, and Hawksbill Brewing Company will quench your thirst with craft beer made from local ingredients. Flotzie’s Ice Cream opens for the season in March, so you can end the day with soft serve.

A Subterranean Odyssey Through Shenandoah Valley S Caverns

Beneath the Shenandoah Valley’s rolling hills and picturesque landscapes lies a hidden world waiting to be explored. Come discover our region’s subterranean wonderland! 

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