Chattanooga Caves in Tennessee: Choose One of 7000+ Sites

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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.

You may have heard that Tennessee offers several wild cave sites for spelunkers. But you might have underestimated the variety. The territory surrounding Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to more than seven thousand caves! The cave closest to the city center is approximately sixty miles away.

If you’re planning to go caving near or in Tennessee, you’ll find plenty of options here. You can explore caves here any given day, regardless of the weather. Caverns maintain a temperature of roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.

There are a lot of commercial caverns that attract tourists from all over the country. However, if you’re after excitement, consider going on a guided tour inside a natural cave. In addition, a few commercial caverns attract visitors from different parts of the nation, which we recommend as well.

You can get more information on visiting wild caves in the Chattanooga area by paying a visit to the Southeastern Regional Association of the National Speleological Society or the Southeastern Cave Conservancy.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular caves found in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area.

Ruby Falls

A picture of the well-lit waterfall at Ruby Falls, one of many Chattanooga Caves.

Ruby Falls, a waterfall on Lookout Mountain, is among the most popular spots for travelers to visit while in Chattanooga.

A man named Leo Lambert found Ruby Falls by chance in 1928. He opened up the famous Chattanooga landmark in 1929 and honored his late wife Ruby by naming the waterfall and cave in her honor.

The modern-day Ruby Falls is a popular tourist destination due to its underground cave adventures, breathtaking views of the Cumberland Plateau, and thrilling zip lines. Inside historic Lookout Mountain sits the United States’ tallest and deepest publicly accessible underground waterfall.

Visitors take the elevator down 260 feet into the caverns to experience the roaring waterfalls up close.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns

An image of the Raccoon Caverns and a person peering up at the stalactites.

More than five and a half miles’ worth of underground caverns is just waiting to be explored at Raccoon Mountain Caves, located just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Crystal Palace Tour is a simple stroll that lasts forty-five minutes, includes the cavern attractions, and offers information on the cave’s history.

The tour begins at the Crystal Palace, which is easily navigable. Guests are welcome to go on this tour if they so choose. Customers interested in getting their hands dirty have the option of participating in the Wild Cave Expedition.

This activity equips customers with gloves, knee pads, torches, and helmets, allowing them to explore underground chambers, canyons, tunnels, streams, and waterfalls. It would be helpful if you braced yourself for a significant amount of confined spaces, and there’s a good chance that you’ll have to crawl through some of them.

Pettyjohn’s Cave

Around 6.5 miles of underground channels make up Pettyjohn’s Cave, which you’ll find in the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. These passages stretch to a depth of 235 feet. Many animals, such as owls and bats, inhabit the cave.

In addition to its more open areas, the cave contains a passageway known as the Worm Hole, which is relatively narrower than the rest. You will hear a stream around 80 feet below the bridge when you are in one of the rooms. When you are in the other room, you will be unable to listen to the stream. The Georgia Girl Guides offer wild cave trips that last one, two, or four hours. Make your reservations through them.

A picture of a dimly lit corridor inside Pettyjohn's Cave.
An image of the entrance of Sitton's Cave, one of over 7000 Chattanooga caves.

Sitton’s Cave

Visitors can go on tours of Sitton’s Cave in April, June, July, September, and October. These are the only months in which excursions are offered. The cave may be found in the beautiful Cloudland Canyon State Park, which can be found at the foot of the canyon itself.

As a result of the cave’s horizontal nature, ropes are not required to navigate through it climb through it. You will find a river running below and several other remarkable structures, such as stalactites composed of a soda straw.

Offered by the Georgia Cave Conservancy and led by The Georgia Girl Guides, you have the option to take 1, 2, or 4 hour guided wild cave trips inside Sitton’s Cave.

Something you should anticipate with Sitton’s Cave is a bit of crawling. The ceiling lowers gradually until reaching a height of about 1.5 feet. After crawling for a little while, the cave opens up.

Sitton’s Cave is a wet cave, so be prepared for both water and mud, and dress accordingly.

Nickajack Cave

You can find this cave located right next to Nickajack Lake, a 30-minute drive from Chattanooga. From the end of April to the start of October, Nickajack Cave is the abode of thousands of gray bats, a species in danger of going extinct.

To view Nickajack Cave, you have two choices at your disposal, which are as follows:

  • The Maple View Boat Ramp: This ramp can be found near the cave. and from there, it is only a short paddle to the entrance of the cave.
  • The traditional way: climbing up some stairs.

In addition, one can get inside the cave by descending several stairs within the cave itself. You will find a boardwalk waiting for you at the Maple View Day Use Area, and before you enter the day-use area, you are welcome to take a stroll along the path.

An over the water view of Nickajack Caves by Nickajack Lake, located not far from Chattanooga.

You will have to make your way through some trees and then walk along a creek as you make your way to an observation platform. Once you reach the forum, you can take in the view. We recommend that you go just before dark between July and September to see the bats as they emerge for their nightly feeding.

To have the best opportunity, go to the location just before dark. It’s an unforgettable site, and you must see it once.

Learn more about Nickajack Cave here.


Every snowflake is unique, and each of these natural wonders is one-of-a-kind as well. There is no doubt that these caves are spectacular. They should be on everyone’s list of places to see. You will discover some incredible formations and see why the Chattanooga Caves remain one of the most well-known cave systems in the world. They are also a fantastic destination for families, and learning about both cave plants and animals as well.

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