Raccoon Mountain Caves: The Most Fun Site in Chattanooga

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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 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.

Just ten minutes from Chattanooga’s downtown, Raccoon Mountain offers an unparalleled over-under experience. One of the top 10 caverns in the nation, Raccoon Mountain Caverns, is where you should begin your tour. There is a well-known campsite and RV park on-site if you enjoy camping.

This subterranean labyrinth invites you and other explorers to delve into its depths and unravel the secrets concealed within its rocky chambers. Known for its intricate network of passages and striking formations, Raccoon Mountain Caves are easily one of the most interesting sites in Chattanooga. If you know just how many caves Tennessee has, that’s saying something.

Get immersed in a world shaped by millennia of geological processes, and enjoy a momentary escape from the hustle and bustle of the surface world.

An image shows several massive formations at Raccoon Mountain Caverns.

Overview and History of Racoon Mountain Caverns

The Raccoon Mountain Caverns are hidden away well behind Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The entry to the caverns is inside the campground there.

A historic stone building once hosted the gift shop. You would purchase your tickets there and enter the caverns via the building’s rear entrance.

However, water damage caused it all to collapse, and the gift store and tickets are now housed in a lovely mobile unit across the parking lot. There is a resident cave cat and a wood deck where groups can congregate while waiting for their tour. Another stone structure with storage and equipment is there, too. It may have served as the starting point for a tram ride to the mountain’s summit.

When it comes to formations, the cave has an underground maze of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones, natural bridges, and more.

One cubic inch of these formations, created by magnesium-rich water trickling slowly from the cave ceiling, takes 100 years to grow. If any of this “growth” drips on you, count yourself lucky. A “cave kiss” is said to bring luck for seven years.

In light of this, you should wear footwear and clothing that can become soiled. The 45-minute walking tour is the best choice if you have a short time to explore the cave.

Inside these caves you can find the Crystal Palace Room. This is the largest cave formation chamber in the Southeast United States and it is quite magnificent to behold in person. Pictures just aren’t enough.

In addition, unlike at many show caves, here you have the opportunity to join a wild cave trip, which provides you with spelunking equipment and a guide. The tours range from one to six hours, and if you choose one that lasts more than four hours, you might choose to spend the night in the cave.

There are paths for both beginners and more experienced adventurers, and pets are permitted on leashes. Rider level and mileage are prominently marked on the detailed trail maps accessible at the visitor center.

Tours Available at Racoon Mountain Caverns

Crystal Palace Walking Tour

At Raccoon Mountain Caverns, you can go straight ahead through the side of the mountain and into the cave, as opposed to Ruby Falls, where you must take an elevator down the mountain.

The journey, which lasts roughly an hour, travels through the caves along lighted paths. Around half a mile was traversed in total. No specific gear is required; however, because the temperature is 58F all year round, you should wear a sweater or long sleeves.

The tour begins at the cave entry building with a brief overview of the caves’ past. Learn about the species to watch out for that live in caves.

Most people can easily navigate the tour because it has railings. There are a few stairs here and there, one at a time. Because it’s a cave, it’s damp, and you can get wet.

Several lizards climb on top of a wet-looking natural formation on the Crystal Palace Walking Tour, at Raccoon Mountain Caves.

The clearance is occasionally low; the path is occasionally rough and narrow. For people using wheelchairs or strollers, this excursion is not possible.

You won’t need to take a long elevator down or a steep staircase to access the cave because it is quite close to the mountain’s base. The Crystal Palace Room is very roomy and elegant. Groups must remain together, and photographs are permitted.

Wild Cave Expeditions

The tour last anywhere from one to six hours. Be prepared to crawl into some tight spots and get muddy (this may not be a great activity for claustrophobic types). You’ll always have a guide by your side, and they’ll outfit you with gloves, knee pads, helmets, and lights.

Wild Expedition Trips, which last between two and four hours. Wild Expeditions, often known as “get muddy” tours, lead tourists into the less-visited, less-developed parts of the caves.

You will push and pull yourself with your arms and legs while crawling and walking. On these tours, you’ll need a helmet, knee pads, gloves, and lights, all of which fall under the price of the tour. Children as young as 6 can participate. Not for the claustrophobic, tours can involve being in confined quarters.

Other Activities and Attractions

There are various museums and Lookout Mountain for Civil War enthusiasts across the city. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium, which is in the heart of the city. Moreover, the Aquarium has an IMAX 3D theatre.

Try the Inclined Railway, which ascends Lookout Mountain at a slope of 72.7%, if you enjoy riding in trains. Visit Point Park and the Civil War museum while on the mountaintop.

Visitation Hours

Raccoon Mountain Caverns are accessible daily from 9 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays until 6 pm, The first tour begins at 9:30 in the morning, and the final trip departs at 4:30 in the afternoon or 5:30 on Saturdays.

It’s possible to stroll up and purchase a ticket at the gift shop, but it’s best to make a reservation by contacting us in advance; thus, you don’t have to wait for a later tour. Also, they will be able to estimate the crowd size.

It’s best to reserve a spot in advance for the most popular Saturday trip, which is the first one. If you can’t, it may be better to aim for the middle of the week.

Rainbow artificial lighting decorates the inside of a large chamber in the Raccoon Mountain Caves.

Tours & Costs

A Crystal Palace Walking Tour costs $25 per person, which applies to all ages. All children must walk independently. Wear closed-toed footwear and a lightweight jacket.

The Wild Cave Tours are available in two-hour “canyon crawls,” three-hour “fossil crawls,” and four-hour “echo room expeditions” for $35, $45, and $55, respectively.

For tourist visiting the caverns you must reserve a spot on each tour in advance. The personnel will provide a helmet, headlamp, gloves, and kneepads; you supply long pants and a washable long-sleeved top.

To see more caving locations in Tennessee, check out our more complete list here.

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