When people speak about the outdoors, they typically are talking about grass and trees and waterways. But caves are one of the most fascinating elements of nature and often less explored. Of course, some people don’t want to spend their time exploring in the dark, but many underground formations are truly breathtaking, and from spelunking to climbing and exploring—there is plenty for adventurous people to do in these crazy caverns.
Mammoth Cave National Park
True to its name, this protected site in Kentucky boasts one mammoth cave. It is actually the world’s longest known cave system—with more than 400 million miles underground that have been mapped. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve according to its website. There are also fossils and preserved ancient artifacts inside of the caves. Of course, there’s plenty to do outdoors in addition to cave exploration—including water activities, horseback riding, and activities and tours led by park rangers.
Jewel Cave National Park
Located beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota, Jewel Cave’s walls are covered in calcite and other colorful crystals formations that sparkle and intrigue visitors. Visitors to the park can participate in talks about the natural and cultural history of the park and scenic tours. For a more exciting experience, the Historic Lantern Tour is led by a park ranger in 1930’s style to give visitors a sense of what the cave was like in history. And finally, for the true adventurers, the Wild Caving Tour will have you climbing, crawling, and will teach participants about “low-impact caving, caving techniques and safety.”
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
These caverns in New Mexico were formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone and have been occupied since prehistoric times. Carlsbad Cavern, the namesake of the park, is actually part of a fossilized reef and was once beneath an inland sea nearly 300 million years ago. The caverns have a number of unique rock formations. One particularly special attraction at the park is the opportunity to watch the masses of bats that live in the caverns enter and exit together at dusk and dawn.