Onondaga Cave State Park: A World of Wonder

This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing products through these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you would like to learn more, please read this Disclaimer for details.

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 www.caves.org 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.

With spacious RV campsites, picnicking, hiking, cave excursions, fishing, boating, and more, welcome to Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg, Missouri! This is a wonderful place to spend the day or weekend when you visit a park that has everything.

Your whole family will enjoy the guided cave tour here. Witness geological marvels, such as ancient cave formations and even a river flowing through the cavern which fosters a unique ecosystem.

This 1,317-acre park features nearly 9 miles (14.5 km) of footpaths, 64 campsites, miles of riverbank, and abundant entertaining activities.

Although Onondaga Cave State Park is only an hour from the city, it is in the center of the Huzzah Conservation Area, making it an ideal camping destination.

An image shows the famous region of Onondaga Cave called Queen's Canopy.

History of Onondaga Cave State Park

Early colonizers in the Meramec River Valley utilized the energy of natural springs to power mills in the region. The Onondaga Cave spring was impounded to power the Davis Mill.

In the 1880s, two men sank a johnboat beneath the bluff near the mill site and explored what would later become known as Onondaga Cave.

George Cresswell and his family settled in the parking area in 1850, constructing a mill on the river near the springs. However, the mill was inundated in 1881, and William Henry Davis purchased the property and constructed a new mill a bit further down the river.

The cave was a popular attraction for visitors travelling to St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair and remained so until the 1960s when it was incorporated into the Missouri State Park system.

A bed of stalactites hang above the waters inside Onondaga Cave State Park's Onondaga Cave.

Amenities and Activities in the Park


Onondaga provides a campground with primitive, electric, and family sites that can be reserved. The campground has a store, a theatre, and a playground.

Water Recreation Activities

The Meramec River and the Blue Heron Millpond permit fishing. The park has a watercraft or canoe launch, but no rentals are available. There are swimming areas in the adjacent Meramec River, but if you do so at your peril, it is not recommended to swim in the Meramec River. Every year, drowning incidences occur along the river because the current can be unpredictable.

Visitor’s Center

The exhibits at the Visitor Center detail the natural and cultural history of caverns in the region. In addition, there is a gift shop, restrooms, and a location to purchase cave tour reservations.

Additionally, the gift shop sells sacks of “pay dirt” for children to mine for gems or fossils. Children adore using sluice basins to search for hidden treasures.

A close-up of one of the large flowwall formations found inside Onondaga Cave State Park.

Tours of Onondaga State Park Caves

The cave tours are an excellent option for a hot summer day and a true highlight of a visit to the park. Two caverns within the park can be explored. The more famous cave is Onondaga Cave, which requires a mile-long (1.6 km) walk and a 75-minute tour.

Onondaga Cave Tour

The departure point for the Onondaga Cave Tour is the Visitor Center. You can either make reservations in advance online or at the Visitor Center. However, with limited capacity, I recommend registering in advance whenever possible.

The cave is always 57 degrees, so you will need a jacket and comfortable shoes. You can bring your whole family, but no pets on the tours.

As you and your group pass by fascinating geological formations, you’ll definitely remember the Queen’s Canopy, the Twins, and the Wall of Jericho. You can also discover many interesting local histories and cultures during the tour.

The cave is decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, soda straws, cave coral, and numerous other unique formations. This cave has a river running through it, making it even more beautiful.

Cathedral Cave Tour

The Cathedral Cave Tour includes a hike up Deer Run Trail, which is more strenuous than typical walking tours. This extra path adds both distance and more extreme weather conditions at times. Heat, humidity, and even occasional thunderstorms add to the challenge on this tour, which takes about 2 hours total.

These tours operate throughout the week from 1 April to 31 October. Adults pay $15, children age 6 to 12 pay $9, and children under 6 are free.

If you want to take advantage of both tours, like we’d recommend, you can get tickets at a discount. But both tours must be completed on the same day.

In addition, if you go with a group, you can enjoy even bigger discounts per person. See the table below for pricing.

Onondaga Cave State Park TicketsOnondaga CaveCathedral CaveCombo PricingGroup Tour (Onondaga)Group Tour (Cathedral)
Adult (18-64)$18$12$25$13$8
Teenager (13-17)$18$10$25$10$8
Child (6-12)$10$8$14$7$6
Child (5-)FreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Military $16$10$23No discountNo discount
Senior (65+)$16$10$23No discountNo discount

Hiking Routes in Onondaga Cave State Park

There are additional attractions besides the caverns. In addition, the park has some fantastic hiking trails with views of a gorgeous spring, or rugged bluff overlooks. Listed below are the trail routes found in Onondaga Cave State Park.

Blue Heron Trail

  • Walking By the Lake

The path follows the edge of Spring Lake. A waterfall that is essentially the old mill raceway, is traversed along the wall. The dam and millrace were constructed in 1886 to prevent spring water from flowing into Spring Lake.

  • Viewing the Spring

After crossing the millrace, you can walk down to see this upper mill pond’s spring and turquoise-colored water. There are benches for resting and taking in the view.

  • Distance: one-mile roundtrip (0.5 miles in each direction)
  • Difficulty: 1/5. Along the main paved trail, the terrain is flat. Two short, unpaved side paths offer vistas of a spring and an old building.
  • Scenic Value: 5/5. It is lovely to view the spring.

Deer Run Trail

The beginning of this trail is initially difficult to locate. Take the park road that passes by Spring Lake and head toward the campground. Park near the shower house by turning right next to the playground. The trail begins just to the right of the restrooms.

  • Distance: 1.5 miles (2.5 km). An optional connector to the Oak Ridge Trail is available for a lengthier hike.
  • Several inclines climb. Difficulty rating: 3/5. The trail ascends to 100-foot-high bluffs above the river.
  • Scenic Value: 4/5. There are some lovely river vistas, but most of the trail is a pleasant walk through the woods.

Cathedral Cave Entrance

You can turn left and hike clockwise to reach the river overlook first and complete the more difficult ascent.

The trail begins to ascend gradually. It is a gradual ascent through the forests and over multiple footbridges. Additionally, the trail crosses a service road before ascending further.

Meramec River Overlook

When you reach the trail’s highest point, turn to your left for breathtaking views of the river below. There are side paths that lead to breathtaking vistas, but proceed with caution.

Other Trails in Onondaga Park

Several additional trails remain to be explored. The Oak Ridge Trail is a loop of 3.1 miles. It passes by several wet-weather cascades, a glade, and seasonal flora. The Vilander Bluff Trail is situated in a distinct area of the park.

This 1.3-mile circle trail runs along the Meramec River’s highest bluff. However, there are no vantage points along the trail.

You must engage in some off-trail scrambling to reach this panoramic vantage point. This must be accomplished with extreme caution and only if the path is known.

A massive cave formation is lit by artificial lighting, surrounded by walkways for the cave tour at Onondaga Cave State Park.

See more caves in the Missouri area here.

Leave a comment