Cathedral Caverns State Park: An Excellent Site for the Family

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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.

Cathedral Caverns State Park features some of the most incredible formations you will find in the country. Once known as “Bat Cave”, these caves have only been open to the public for about 75 years. Since then, this site has been declared a National Natural Landmark in 1972, appeared in two motion pictures, and won Tripadvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award along with 10 other Alabama State Parks.

An image of the lit cave in Cathedral Caverns State Park, featuring many stalagmites and stalactites.

If you’re curious, those movies were Secrets of the Phantom Caverns in 1983 and Disney’s Tom and Huck, in 1995. Today, they are also known for holding several world records when it comes to caves, which we’ll cover shortly.

So why the name Cathedral Caverns? Back in the 1950s, Jacob Gurley first opened the cave to the public, and renamed it because of its cathedral-like appearance.

There is a grand entrance to the cave, which likely influenced this decision.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Cathedral Caverns and some of the other attractions at the State Park.

Next time you make a trip to Alabama, be sure to check out this site.

Cathedral Caverns State Park: Everything to Know

Cave tours, gemstone mining, hiking, and more are available at Cathedral Caverns State Park. While you can’t bring a pet, you can certainly bring the whole family, kids included, and have a good time.

The cave is a cool 60 degrees year round, so you won’t need too many layers. But we recommend having some comfortable shoes and a sweater at the least, just in case.

In addition, there are some primitive tent camping areas, along with more than enough trails for backpacking and hiking. There are several other north Alabama State Parks not far from Cathedral Caverns. These include Guntersville State Park, Monte Sano State Park, Jackson County State Park, and Buck’s Pocket State Park, each less than 40 miles away.

The activities available include the Cathedral Caverns Trail Run, a Cave Tour, Conquer the Cave 5k Run, Gem Mining, and a Race to the Cave Half Marathon. If you’re a runner, you will certainly enjoy some of these.

We will cover the tour shortly, but first, let’s take a look at some of the world records held by Cathedral Caverns.

Cathedral Caverns World Records

In addition to offering several fun tours and activities, there are some world records held by these caverns in Alabama. After seeing such a unique bell at the entrance, who could guess that several more miraculous formations lay waiting in the same site?

A picture of the massive flowstone wall in Cathedral Caverns.

1) The widest commercial cave entrance

Cathedral Caverns has a 25 foot tall and 126 foot wide entrance. You will truly appreciate the size once you see it in person!

2) Both the largest stalagmite forest and the largest single known stalagmite in the world

Known as “Goliath”, this single stalagmite measures 45 feet tall with a circumference of 243 feet.

3) The world’s largest flowstone wall

A height of 32 feet and a length of 135 feet, this wall is breathtaking to see up close.

4. The world’s most improbable formation

A single stalagmite stands at 27 feet tall with a width of only 3 inches. Any theories on how this happened? I’d definitely love to know!

5. The world’s largest frozen waterfall

Another incredible sight to behold in person. Human habitation in these caves were traced back 8,000 years, for history lovers with an interest in our cavemen ancestors.

Cathedral Cave Tour

The Cathedral Caverns Cave Tour lasts about 90 minutes, and involves 1.5 miles (2.42 km) of walking. While it’s closed on New Years, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, it’s open everyday otherwise, so you can easily make plans at any time during the year. However, in the beginning and end of school semesters, there are often many students going to Cathedral Caverns. Tour times vary to accommodate the increased traffic.

Cathedral Caverns State Park features a frozen waterfall inside the caves, pictured here.

Tours can be reserved over the phone 2 days in advance. Reservations must be made by calling 256-728-8193, but be sure to check in at least 15 minutes before your tour.

Pets are not allowed, but this is typical for cave tours.


For individuals 13 and older, it costs $20. Ages 9-13 are $9, and 4 and under are free. With valid military ID, you can get in for $18.

If you’re a teacher or student who is going to the tour with your school group, you’re in luck! Teachers get in free, and students only have to pay $8. In addition, there are special rates for combining tours with gemstone mining when going with a student group. Be sure to ask in advance to take advantage of these rates.

If your group is very large, 25 or more, admission is just $15 per person.

Cathedral Cave Hiking Trails and Camping

Cathedral Caverns State Park consists of 493 acres with around 5.5 miles (8.9 km) of hiking trails. Color-coded indicators identify and categorize each route. A trail comprised of the colors blue, gray, green, and yellow travels through Cathedral Caverns. There is parking at the trailhead, where the blue and gray trails intersect.

You can find both sophisticated and more primitive tent-pitching areas in the park. The campsites are conveniently located next to the restrooms. A wilderness campsite accommodates backpackers and hikers. Next to the information desk are two large pavilions that may serve as picnic places.

Trail Run

The Trail Run is held in November, and features both a 5k and 15k run. With the beautiful natural landscape of mountains and fields as a backdrop, both beginner and advanced runners can enjoy the scenery during the run. Temperatures during the day range from 44 to 67 Fahrenheit at this time of year, so it will be quite comfortable to work up a sweat.

Stations with water, Gatorade, pretzels, M&M’s, and more are set up at various points on the course.

Each of the races are capped at 300 runners, and runners receive a t-shirt and medal at the finish line.

A picture shows an assortment of gems held by an individual who participated in Gem Mining at Cathedral Caverns.

Race to the Cave Half Marathon

This yearly half marathon is held in March, when temperatures range from 40 to 63 degrees. This run is particularly interesting because it features a 1.2 mile finish through the Cathedral Cave itself. The total length is 10 kilometers, so be prepared!

After the race, participants receive a free pulled pork barbecue sandwich and some

Gem Mining

Mining for gemstones at Cathedral Caverns State Park is a delightful activity for people of all ages, but especially youngsters. You may purchase mining dirt sowed with unpolished gemstones or fossils by the bag or bucketful, and then sort it using flowing water in purpose-built flumes.

You also receive a rock/fossil identification guide with your purchase, so you can find out what your finds really are.

Gem Mining is available from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM everyday. Cost ranges from $6 to $50, with different sizes/contents costing different amounts.


Cathedral Cave is a nice place to bring the whole family, as well as learn some fascinating history. The cave’s constant temperature of 60 degrees makes it a fantastic destination for organized group outings all through the year.

Parkgoers may explore the park’s 493 acres on one of the many well-defined pathways, but we know you’d be going for the caving. With so many world records associated with it, you will surely find this site memorable even if it is not the most challenging of caves.

Share some of the pictures you take while you’re there, and have a good time!

Check out more Alabama caves here.

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