Top Ten U.S. Caves

Interior of Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Interior of Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico (Corbis)

For all the natural wonders aboveground, don't forget about the ones below. Visiting the depths of a cave offers an experience you just can't find anywhere else on earth. Far below the surface, rocks that look like popcorn, butterflies, and bacon strips hang from the ceiling. Explorers of the subterranean realm can wander through the cold shell of a lava tube, listen to musical stalactites, or take in the spectacle of a huge underground waterfall.

With nothing more than water and rock, Mother Nature has created massive underground vaults, labyrinthine passageways, and fantastic rock formations. The birth of a cave can be as violent as a volcanic eruption, as gradual as glacial recession, or as earth shattering as a continental shift.

There are hundreds of caves in the United States alone, and many have been developed into "show caves," with lighting and passageways that allow comfortable exploration for people of all ages and abilities. Some caves offer "wild" tours off the beaten path, where weekend spelunkers inch through tiny crawlspaces, clamber up walls, and rappel into seemingly bottomless pits. Ready to journey to the center of the earth? Well, dig no further: Here are GORP's top ten U.S. caves.


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