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According to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc. (SCCI), a nonprofit that has been dedicated to preserving and educating the public about regional caves since 1991, there are at least 171 caves in 30 preserves in the American Southeast. While some of these cave systems are very fragile and off-limits to visitors, many others are accessible to the public. Caves are ground cavities in which at least some portions do not receive sunlight. Meanwhile, caverns are a type of cave that has open spaces underground.
Learning about caves teaches us about the past and present climate, various species’ habitats, and even ancient civilizations. Exploring caves, also known as spelunking, can also reveal lava flows, bat colonies, and an underground world that’s filled with mystery and intrigue. You may be surprised to learn that there are many caves worth checking out right here in Georgia. Whether you are a long-time Georgia resident or just visiting the area on vacation, you can book a cave tour or contact the SCCI to request a permit.
Here are the top caves and caverns to visit in Georgia.
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Pettijohn’s Cave is located in Walker County, Georgia and has over six miles of cave passages to check out. It is sometimes referred to as “Petty John’s Cave” as well. This is a cave that you can take a tour of, as long as you are prepared to crawl through certain low-lying portions of it. There’s one portion called the Worm Hole that is a very tight squeeze. A few of the large rooms are fun to explore in this cave system also. The closest town is Chickamauga, which is near the Hidden Hollow Resort if you are looking for a weekend place to stay.
One of the absolute best places to visit if you enjoy caves is Cloudland Canyon State Park. Located in the Rising Fawn area of Georgia, Sitton’s Cave is located in this state park and has some fascinating features. Here you can see other-worldly rock formations, a large open room, and narrow passages that require crawling. Be prepared for this adventure with warm, waterproof layers of clothing. But this is an accessible cave that runs horizontally and doesn’t require ropes or rappelling. Expect to see skinny stalactites and an underground river when you visit. The Days Inn in Trenton and the Hidden Hollow Resort in Chickamauga are accommodations near this state park.
Another cave worth visiting in this state park is Case Cave. This cave is exciting to explore because it involves rappelling, and you’ll need to descend about 30 feet down into the cave to get started. Local tour companies offer tours of the Cloudland Canyon State Park caves. Once you’re done rappelling, there are about three miles of cave to explore, as well as a cave lake. You can also stay at the Canyon Ridge Club & Resort in Rising Fawn or the General Bragg Inn in Chickamauga when you visit the Cloudland Canyons.
Like several other caves on this list, Ellson’s Cave is located in Walker County. This is an enormous cave that has very deep vertical drops. It’s actually among the deepest caves in the U.S. and a popular one to visit. The cave drops are appropriately named “Fantastic” and “Incredible,” which they most certainly are! While this cave’s features are undoubtedly impressive, they are very challenging and should only be attempted by expert cavers. Top-rated attractions in Chattanooga, Tennessee are only about an hour away from this region, and you can stay at The Chattanoogan or the DoubleTree by Hilton downtown to make a weekend getaway out of this trip.
Frick’s Cave is home to a huge bat population of endangered Gray Bats and the rare Tennessee Cave Salamander. It’s located on 33.8 acres of land in North Georgia in Walker County near Lookout Mountain. If you are professionally involved with caves, you can contact the SCCI to request a visit. Permits for access to the preserve can be requested online. The general public is discouraged from visiting due to the endangered species living inside. However, there is an appreciation day held each winter that allows members and their guests to tour the cave. This is a very rich spelean environment and a truly unique place if you have a chance to see it.
The region where Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee meet is the home to Byers Cave. This cave has passages that extend over five miles, and it’s a thrilling one to explore. It’s located in the Fox Mountain Preserve in Dade County and is owned by SCCI. It is more of a horizontal cave than a vertical one, but it’s still very challenging for adventurers. This cave used to be closed off to the public, but was added to the Fox Mountain Preserve in 2006. This preserve spans 448.6 acres of property. There are some nice vacation rentals in the Rising Fawn area, like the Holly Berry Cabin and the Lookout Mountain Cottage, Old Hickory.
This is a lovely cave that is great for both novice and experienced cavers to explore. For many decades, this cave was heavily used and graffiti and vandalism have unfortunately occurred. You can request a permit on the SCCI website to explore this cave today. There is a main entrance that cavers will come into to start their journeys. It’s located on 1.25 acres in Dade County, Georgia. The closest town is Trenton, and the Days Inn in Trenton is dog-friendly and serves a basic breakfast.
If you head to the Georgia/Florida border, you can visit Climax Caverns. This is known as one of the largest dry caves in the coastal plains of the U.S., which means it exists above water. There are passageways and rooms that exist under the water here as well. You can find this cave region in east-central Decatur County near the village of Climax. You’ll need to drive about 225 miles south of Atlanta to find it. Inside the cave exists rare species of animals, including the Georgia blind salamander and the Southeastern myotis bat. Visitors must sign a safety release with the owner of this property before exploring the cave since it’s located on private property. Hotels near Climax are located in Bainbridge, including the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites and the Hampton Inn Bainbridge.
Another cavern worth visiting in Georgia is Glory Hole Caverns, which is also near the Georgia/Florida border. It’s in Grady County, Georgia and in the middle of a field with a sinkhole. This cave is known for its impressive formations of crystalline gypsum. “Angel Wings” and “Granny Star” are a couple of the famous formations here. The closest town to the caverns is Cairo, and there is a Best Western Executive Inn to stay at here.
Also in the Fox Mountain Preserve, you’ll find Rusty’s Cave, which is one of the deepest caves in the state of Georgia. It has a 45-foot entrance pit that requires some ropework, but after that, no ropes are required to explore it. There is a parking area for access to the Fox Mountain Preserve, which can be found at these GPS coordinates: N 34 44′ 58.9″/W 085 32′ 14.5″. If you also want to visit Summerville or Trion on your trip to the preserve, you can find lodging accommodations in these towns. Coach Inn is a budget-friendly place to stay in Summerville, and Trion has an Express Inn & Suites.
Another cave that’s part of the Fox Mountain Preserve is Cemetery Pit, which is an amazing vertical cave to explore. It has a 153-foot entrance pit and nearly three miles of passages to check out underground. You’ll also find several large rooms down in this cave system. It’s important to clean and disinfect your gear before visiting the caves in this preserve to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, which affects bats. This cave is also in the Rising Fawn area of Georgia.