Black Chasm Cavern: A Spectacular Vertical Cave in California

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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.

National Natural Landmark Black Chasm Cavern can be found in the California town of Volcano. People from far and wide frequent the cave since it’s an excellent place for families to have lighthearted fun.

Black Chasm Cavern is a spectacular vertical cave that may be visited 364 days a year and is located about 2 hours outside Sacramento. Various types of cave formations, such as stalagmites, stalactite columns, and helictite, can be seen here in exceptional examples.

Some sharp white formations are shown here, growing inside the Black Chasm Cavern National Natural Landmark.

Black Chasm Cavern National Natural Landmark: Overview

Since it was recognized as a National Natural Landmark, the cave has become a popular tourist destination, with guided tours leading tourists deep into the cave. The finest helictites in the west can be found in the Black Chasm Cavern.

This site features a 3136 feet long and 225 feet deep (including the lake) cave, only 146 feet above sea level.

It is possible to visit the Cavern at any time of the year. However, the summer months see the greatest number of visitors because the cool caves provide welcome relief from the scorching heat outside.

Helictites, for the uninitiated, are highly unusual crystal formations typically seen on the walls of caves. These caves are filled with thousands of such helictites. The tour guides have come up with adorable pet names for the ones who seem like familiar species.

Temperature of Black Chasm Cavern

The Cavern maintains a temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit all year. Especially in the winter, it can get rather frigid. Bring a sweater or light jacket if you plan to visit during the winter.

What to Wear

Remember to bring comfortable walking shoes and layers if it gets chilly while you’re here. If you’re taking kids on your trip, ensure they’re protected with safety gear like hard hats and goggles.

Black Chasm Cavern Hours

On any given day of the week, between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM, the Cavern is open to the public.

Directions to Black Chasm Cavern

A view of the newly installed walkway at Black Chasm Caverns, from the bottom step.

You’ll find the cave on Pioneer Volcano Road in Volcano, California. A trip to the Cavern may be made in less than an hour from Sacramento.

From Sacramento Metro Area:

To get to Jackson from Drytown via Highway 16: go in that direction, then turn right onto Highway 49. Then, turn left onto 49 off Ridge Road. To get to Pine Grove, go straight on Ridge Road until it dead-ends.

Pinegrove-Volcano Road can be accessed by turning left after about a mile. Take the first right onto Pioneer Volcano Road after traveling straight for three miles. After about half a mile, you’ll see the chasm on your right.

The History of Black Chasm Cavern

Although the local Miwok tribes may have been aware of Black Chasm Cavern’s existence, the gold miners were credited with its discovery in 1854. The miners were awestruck by the cave’s size and splendor, describing domed rooms that were big enough to fit the world’s largest trees.

In addition, they remarked on the enormous crystals that protrude from the walls in all directions, creating fascinating and unusual designs. Helictites are a type of formation that can be found in a variety of caves all over the world.

The cave’s entrance was widened in the 1860s so visitors could use the stairs. The excursions ran for a short time before everyone left the cave.

In recent years, the Black Chasm Cavern has largely been forgotten. Nonetheless, it had a renaissance in the 1950s as spelunkers descended again into the abyss and marveled at the Cavern’s untouched beauty.

The federal government finally took notice of the Cavern’s abundance of uncommon speleothems termed helictites after more than a century since its discovery.

The federal government designated the cave a National Natural Landmark in 1976. In the twenty years that followed, the Black Chasm Cavern was transformed into a tourist attraction with the addition of ramps and walkways. Visitors can now use these platforms to navigate the tunnels and take in the stunning variety of crystals on display.

An image shows the well-lit massive formations along the ceiling of Black Chasm Cavern National Natural Landmark, along with a walkway that takes tourists below it.

Black Chasm Cave’s Geological Formations

Inside the Cavern, you may see some incredible geological formations. There would be a plethora of glimmering crystals sticking out of the walls in every direction.

Helictites, composed of calcite, are prized for their geological significance. These cave formations are extremely fragile and should be seen carefully from a safe distance. The profusion of helictites at this location earned it national recognition by the federal government in 1976.

Inhabitants of Black Chasm Cavern

The cave is too warm to support a bat colony; however, this does not guarantee a thriving underground ecosystem. Amphipods are only one of the many fascinating species that make their home in the Cavern’s lakes and puddles.

These crustacean-like organisms do not require eyes because the lakes have no sunlight. From afar, they resemble shrimp due to their diminutive size. A particular type of spider has also evolved special adaptations for cave dwellings.

Cave Tours of the Black Chasm

The tour lasts for 50 minutes and sets out from the Visitors’ Center. The cave is around 100 feet below ground level, where the tour group will spend some time exploring. Since there is only enough room for 20 persons inside the cave, visitors will have to wait in line order of arrival.

The walking tours give visitors of all ages an excellent opportunity to see more of the Cavern. Through the main chamber of the Cavern, which can be traversed on a wooden boardwalk, you may see fascinating and exquisite rock formations suspended from the ceiling.

You’ll see fascinating helictites protruding from the ground when you gaze down at the cave floor. Over thousands of years, countless stalactites, stalagmites, angel wings, and other formations have taken shape.

In the second chamber, a magnificent blue lake lies about eighty feet below the platform. The cave has a vertical layout, with three levels accessible by steps and five levels accessible by platforms. This tour is not recommended for anyone with breathing difficulties, even though the walk is not extremely difficult.

Children of all ages are welcome to join their parents on this tour. The 3-hour, above-ground Labyrinth Tour is available to children over eight.

Several thick stalactites with artificial lighting.

Ticket Rates & Discounts for Black Chasm Cavern

You should go on the tour of Black Chasm Cavern, which you can learn all about here. Tour rates are as follows:

  • Individuals above the age of 13: $18.50.
  • Children (5 to 12 years old): $10.00
  • Children under 5: Free!

It is recommended to call ahead to make bookings for school groups. To make a reservation, call (888) 488-1960 in advance.

Things to Do in the Black Chasm Cavern (Beside Tours)

If you have any spare time, you should check out the local sights like Black Chasm Cavern. The Indian Grinding Rock, located close to the caves, could serve as the first point of interest. Volcano’s historic district includes the landmark St. George Hotel, which features a restaurant on the first floor and dates back to the Gold Rush era.

There is widespread talk that this hotel is haunted, so guests should steer clear. Visitors can pan for gold and search for gemstones in bottomed screen boxes.

The Black Chasm Cavern also features a Visitor Center where you may get lots of helpful information. You can purchase pebbles and other souvenirs in the on-site gift shop and your walking tour tickets.

Hotels Within Proximity to Black Chasm Cavern

There are several hotels in the area, but the Volcano Union Inn is the closest, about a kilometer away from the Cavern, making it the best option. Hotel Sutter and Best Western Amador Inn are two other great options, albeit a bit further away.

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