The Best Caves in California, USA: Complete List

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

When planning a trip to sunny California, activities like water sports and wine tasting are likely at the top of your list. How about trying something new and different this time?

Learn more about the uniqueness of California and the gold rush era by exploring some of the prominent caves in the area and getting some great photos in the process. What are we waiting for? Let’s take a look at some of the caving sites in Cali.

Arroyo Tapiado Cave

The caverns in Anza Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County were created as water eroded through layers of silt. At least twenty-two caverns have been discovered, some more than a kilometer in length.

The public can visit several of the caverns. Quality cave entrance maps are available at the tourist center and are highly recommended for use in navigating the area. Without a detailed map, locating many of the entrances can be a daunting task. Big Mud Cave, Chasm Cave, Plunge Pool Cave, and Carey’s Big Mud Cave are some of the most visited caverns.

A dark tunnel leads to the unknown in this image of the Arroyo Topiado Mud Caves in California.

Balconies Cave (Pinnacles National Park)

There are shorter loops that get to the cave, but the 9-mile round via the beautiful Pinnacles is the only way to go (really, take the 9-mile loop). The remnants of an ancient volcano eroded over time to form what is now Pinnacles National Park.

Intense heat characterizes the summer months; spring and fall are optimal times to visit. If you get up on a day when the temperature is high, you can seek refuge in the “cave,” a rock fall that has covered the trail.

A natural trail across a small stream leads to some small openings, presumably for Balconies Cave in California's Pinnacles National Park.

Black Chasm Caverns

Carbonic acid eroded the underground marble bedrock to create Black Chasm Cavern, a National Landmark. The cavern is decorated with stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations made of calcite.

Columns, flowstone, draperies, ribbons, angel wings, cave bacon, soda straws, helictites, false floors, and more. A multitude of unusual features create a magnificent and varied underground scene.

Blind and pigment-less life forms have evolved to thrive in the cave’s lakes. The cave is 3,135 feet long and 225 feet deep (not counting the lake).

An image of the formations that clutter Black Chasm Caverns in California.

Boyden Caverns (Kings Canyon National Park)

Inside Kings Canyon National Park, this cave sees a fraction of Sequoia’s visitors. The cave houses beautiful mineral stalactites known as speleothems and features tons of unusual shield-metamorphosed limestone formations.

Again, this is a guided tour cave, but it’s fun to take the kids or get out of the sun for a while. The average tour time is 45 minutes, and the cave is well-lit and equipped with accessible handrails—an ideal excursion for those interested in cave exploration but worried about potential claustrophobia or accessibility issues.

An image shows a large white pillar with flowwall formations and more in the background, found at Boyden Caverns in California.

California Cavern

This state landmark is home to some extremely rare helictites and provides visitors with the opportunity to have an unforgettable cave-tour experience. Due to the dramatic seasonal variation in subterranean humidity, California Caverns offers two distinct tours throughout the year.

The Trail of Lights is only available during the dry summer and fall, and you can go on the Trail of Lakes throughout the rainy months of winter and spring. The tours are identical; however, during the wet season, some sections of the cave may be inaccessible due to pools of water. You can’t go wrong with a trip to this attraction any time of year.

An image shows the dark and varied rock formations in California Cavern.

Cave of Munits

To reach the Cave of Munits, part of a 2.6-mile loop route in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, one must first climb steep granite steps. The Chumash, Native Americans from the central and southern coastal region of California, felt a spiritual connection to this area. The cave is the walk’s highlight, although it has been vandalized and is filled with shattered glass and scratch marks on the walls.

The Cave of Munits in California is shown here from a short distance, down the slope and heading up to the main entrance.

Crystal Cave (Sequoia National Park)

A marble karst cave is one of the 240 recognized caverns in Sequoia National Park. The cave is only accessible through park-guided tours, which may be purchased at the Foothills or Lodgepole Visitor Center and take place in the Giant Forest region.

The cave’s strangely aesthetic vibe stems from the beautiful crystal formations that hang like curtains and the standing waters. When visiting Sequoia National Park, you absolutely must make time to see this.

Crystal formations in these caves are delicate, so the National Park Service is understandably discreet about their locations.

Of the 240 caverns in Kings Canyon and Sequoia, 17 have been found since 2003. The National Park Service has stated that the newest, Ursa Minor, is one of the most spectacular in all of California and will never be accessible to the general public. What a shame, right? One of the most awe-inspiring caves in California, but we can’t go inside, unless

A thousand stalactites, at least it looks like, with the beautiful orange sunset light illuminating them. This is Crystal Cave in California's Sequoia National Park.

Gaviota Wind Caves

The Gaviota Wind Caves offer another pleasant 2.5-mile out-and-back with a fantastic view and interesting wind-eroded sandstone formation.

These caves, while not as large as some other caverns on the list, offer a nice day trip nonetheless. The trek is an excellent way to break up a lengthier trip including hikes up Gaviota Peak and Las Cruces. This is a no-cost zone, so it makes a great location for your hiking group.

Some of the open tunnels are shown in natural light, where the Gaviota Wind Caves are visible all day.

Hell Hole Cave

Hell Hole Cave is notorious for being one of the most claustrophobia-inducing experiences in the state. With winding pathways, narrow corridors, and low crawlspaces, it’s incredibly easy to get lost inside if you’re not well-prepared.

The cave gets its name from the challenging and tight squeezes that spelunkers encounter as they navigate through its depths. Exploring Hell Hole Cave requires a sense of adventure and a willingness to squeeze and crawl whenever required. The cave system is a challenging yet rewarding experience for those who dare to venture beneath the surface.

The geology of the cave tells a story of the earth’s processes over millions of years, making it not only a thrilling adventure but also a living geological museum. With its mysterious allure and geological wonders, Hell Hole Cave stands as a testament to the diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes found throughout California.

One of the memorable features is the Hall of Faces, where pictures like the one below are taken.

Learn more about Hell Hole Cave here.

Lava Beds National Monument

More than 700 caves make up this region, making it California’s largest cave system. The monument is situated in northeastern California, close to the Medicine Lake Volcano. Twenty-five lava tubes have designated entrances and are open to visitors.

The monument is home to the oldest and largest network of lava tubes in the Cascades, estimated at between 30,000 and 40,000 years old.

Some of the most impressive examples of Native American (Modoc people) rock art in the United States may be found at Petroglyph Point, another great archaeological site in the area. With nearly 30,000 acres of wilderness included, enjoy more than a dozen significant routes wind through the area (3 long, 10 short).

An image of the Lava Beds National Monument and outdoor landscape with grass and a natural stone bridge.

Moaning Caverns

Visitors should expect more from a trip to Moaning Caverns than the standard cave tour. The state of California’s largest public vertical chamber can also be found here. Based on their findings, it has the potential to accommodate the Statue of Liberty. Moaning Caverns also features an adventure park with parallel zip lines and a climbing tower. This cavern is a geological marvel and a great place to have fun.

A very bright and colorful backdrop of golden light against innumerable stalactites at the Moaning Caverns in California.

Painted Cave (Channel Islands National Park)

You can’t make a good list of the best caves in California with none of them being in the water. After all, California’s beaches are known across the globe. So if you have a flair for diving, swimming, or kayaking, we have a treat for you.

Painted Cave is among the world’s largest and deepest underwater caverns. To get there, you must go to Channel Islands National Park.

The entrance ceiling of the 100-foot-deep Painted cave is 160 feet high; the cave got its name because of the colorful lichens, algae, and mineral deposits that decorate it. A waterfall may be tumbling over the cave’s mouth in the spring.

Getting to the cave requires a boat charter and kayaks, but despite the difficulty of the journey, it is well worth it once you get there. Bring your snorkel gear if you plan on visiting. This way, you can take full advantage of the crystal-clear water and abundant marine life at the Scorpion Bay anchorage in the National Park.

Blue bioluminescent algae glow over the ocean’s surface at night during the summer, providing a spiritual experience for first-time viewers.

A kayaker paddles through the water in Channel Islands National Park's Painted Cave, found in California.


California is home to a wide variety of caves, each with its special characteristics and history. Caves in California range from the renowned Lava Beds National Monument to the more modest but no less impressive Painted Cave.

Suppose you want to delve deep into the earth and learn about the region’s geology or enjoy the stunning beauty of the caves. In that case, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to do so in California. A trip to the caves in California will leave a lasting impression on your memory, whether you’re an experienced spelunker or just starting.

Looking for even more caving adventure? Check out some of the caves in the neighboring states next:

Oregon Caves

Nevada Caves

Arizona Caves

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