Once you have scratched all the fun alpine coasters in Pigeon Forge off your bucket list, it is time to make a new list with fun caves to explore in the area. The caves in the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge are fantastic for hobby spelunkers, as they are easily accessible, well-maintained, and yet adventurous. Here are our favorite caves to put on your itinerary!
Our favorite caves at a glance:
1. Great Smoky Mountains
Like any large mountain range, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to many caves. The park is open every day. The drive here is peaceful and very scenic. Each stretch of the road has an information tablet consisting of a description of the area.
There are numerous entry points and walking trails, all leading to different destinations. In addition, the park offers excellent hiking, ranging from easy to moderate, with few exceptions to some remote areas you can’t access unless you’re an experienced hiker. You will be rewarded with a panoramic view and wildlife along the way! Bears, deer, turkeys, elks, and coyotes are some of the most common wild animals being seen in this park.
Some of the caves located within the Great Smoky Mountains are:
- Blowhole Cave
- Collins Maple Caves
- Fairyland Caverns
- Frozen Niagara Caverns
Some caves may be closed due to water quality, wildlife hibernation sites, or natural causes. Make sure to check their website for any warnings or information before visiting. You can also sleep in some of these caves , but you will likely have to make a reservation first.
2. Forbidden Caverns
Forbidden Caves was once used as a shelter during winter months, and the cave river provided a consistent water supply for the locals. It is now one of the most spectacular tourist attractions in the state! This cavern offers an entertaining and educational tour for visitors of all ages.
The guided tour generally lasts an hour and costs $20 for adults, $12 for kids ages 5-12, and free for kids under 4. You can explore sparkling formations, crystal-clear streams, grottoes, and towering natural chimneys! The trails are well-lighted with handrails on necessary points. The hike is moderate; just make sure to wear proper shoes. Also, bring a jacket if you’re sensitive to cold, as the temperature remains mid-50s year-round.
The cave is located in Sevierville, around 45 minutes from the heart of Gatlinburg. It is open from April 1st to November 30th from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed on Thursday and Sunday. To access the cave, you will walk through the lush valley with beautiful views of the LeConte range, so have your camera ready! In addition, the gift shop at the cave offers unique and rare collectibles that might be worth checking out.
3. Tuckaleechee Caverns
Known as the “Greatest Site Under The Smokies,” Tuckaleechee Cave is another popular and top-rated spelunking destination. Exploring this cave is a thrilling adventure for kids and adults. People who have gone here compared their experience here to visiting another planet. The caverns are rich in history and estimated to be between twenty and thirty million years old.
The guided tours last for 60 – 90 minutes. Ensure you are in a fit condition, as you must walk a mile-long walk and climb over 400 stairs. The highlights of the tour are:
- The Big Room: an enormous room that is longer and wider than a football field, featuring 24-foot stalagmites.
- Silver Falls: These waterfalls drop 210 feet from top to bottom and are the tallest underground waterfalls in the US. The water is so clean that you can even drink it
- Underwater River: the water flows through the river, giving a peaceful sound throughout the caves.
Another exciting thing is visitors can see the remains of the prehistoric era. Some animal bones, pottery, projectile points, etc., were found in the caves.
The Tuckaleechee Caverns are located in Townsend, just 30 minutes from Pigeon Forge. It opens every day from March to November from 10 am to 5 pm. The entrance ticket costs $22 for adults, $10 for kids aged 5 – 11, and free for kids under 4. We recommend sturdy, non-slip shoes to explore the cave. Also, bring a jacket, especially if visiting during the winter months.
4. Alum Cave Bluff
Although it has a cave in its name, it’s just a giant concave bluff. Visitors must hike about 2.3 miles from the Alum Cave Trailhead to reach Alum Cave Bluff. The hike is moderate to challenging and will take around 1 to 3 hours, depending on your fitness level. Some steps are steep and slippery. Wearing proper hiking shoes is highly recommended. Bringing water is a must!
Along the way, you will walk along some of the most breathtaking sceneries. You can explore many things: nice streams, little tunnels, interesting log bridges, etc. The cave is around 80 ft high and 500 ft long! Take a photo of somebody standing underneath it, and you will see how massive it is! Then, if you still have time and endurance, you can continue hiking to the summit of Mount Leconte.
Located just 30 minutes from Pigeon Forge, Alum Cave can be the perfect family getaway. The hike may seem impossible, but it is manageable. Many families hike here with kids, and it’s fine. However, bringing pets is strictly prohibited.
5. Arch Rock
Don’t miss out on this spot along the way to Alum Cave! It takes around 1.4 miles to reach Arch Rock from the Alum Cave Trailhead. So if you’re a casual hiker, you can hike from Arch Rock to Alum Caves and Mount Leconte summit all in one day!
Arch Rock is a large tunnel-like rock with a spiral staircase and guide wires you can walk through. This rock formation is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. There are bridges and creeks along the way. The further the trail, the more strenuous it gets. The rocks can also get slippery. Wearing proper hiking shoes is recommended.
6. Gregory’s Cave
Gregory’s Cave is an underground cave located within Cades Cove. It is also a biological wonder, home to frogs, an array of salamanders, and invertebrates, including a rare cave-dwelling amphipod. Unfortunately, the cave is no longer open for public entry. Exploration is limited only to scientific endeavors. So, you cannot enter the cave unless you’re a scientist and hold a permit. However, you can view, take a peek and photograph it from outside.
To reach the cave, you must drive along the Cades Cove Loop until you reach John Oliver Cabin. You can park your vehicle there. Then, hike along until you see a metal-gated dirt road. Follow the path passing the picnic area, and you’ll spot the cave entrance just past the trees with the bat box attached.