When we think of mountains, we always see them as these unmoving natural structures that most of the time are tall enough to look down at the clouds. However, for some reason, we never think about the fact that the mountains can even stretch underneath us – all the way down to the world underground, to the formations that are cleverly concealed, hidden right under our noses. Said formations come in the form of caverns and caves and serve as a living reminder of how old the earth actually is.
Caves are incredible places to visit, especially for the booklovers among us, who automatically look for fairy tales in all they see. Caverns give them countless opportunities to do just that, all the while immersing themselves in the fascinating history and geography of our planet.
The state of Tennessee happens to be home to the biggest number of cave systems in the country, with a couple of the most well-known ones located near Pigeon Forge city.
It doesn’t matter if you want to go caving or spelunking, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned explorer, everyone wants a little bit of adventure, and visiting some of the best caverns in the US could be a great starting point. It’s a very family-friendly, educational and fun exploration that won’t leave anyone disappointed.
So take a look at the best caverns in Pigeon Forge, TN and see for yourself.
Forbidden Caverns derive their name from a Cherokee legend that says a princess who stepped into the caves – believed to be leading to the underworld – was lost forever. That’s why they were forbidden to enter.
This massive underground speleothem has seen many roles and purposes throughout the centuries. Originally, it served as a shelter for the Cherokees during the unbearable cold on their winter hunting trips and also provided them with a source of water.
Somehow, centuries later – from the 1920s to 1940s – Forbidden Caverns went from being a shelter to a safe, off-the-grid haven for Moonshiners, where they could produce their illicit whiskey.
Now, however, it is open to the public to immerse themselves in the geological history that has been eons in the making. There you’ll be greeted with grottoes – Grotto of Evil Spirits and Grotto of the Dead – stalactites and stalagmites that one would think are masterfully sculpted out of clay. There are also special effects, lighting and mystical music to elevate the sense of mystery and overall experience.
- The guided tour lasts for about an hour.
- You will find railings in some risky areas.
- The caverns are closed on Sundays, Thanksgiving and December – March.
- Working hours are 10am–5pm. Last tour starts at 5pm.
- Standard price for the tickets ranges between $12–$20. Admission for kids aged 4 and under is free.
Address: 455 Blowing Cave Rd. Sevierville, TN 37876
At time of writing, the Forbidden Caverns are closed due to flooding but the situation is looking up and you’ll be able to enjoy these mysterious caves again real soon once they reopen.
Estimated to be 20-30 million years old – which isn’t surprising seeing as one centimeter of stalactites and stalagmites takes 100 years to form – Tuckaleechee Caverns is one of the most sought-out destinations among spelunkers and simple adventurers equally.
Tuckaleechee is a Cherokee word meaning ‘peaceful valley.’ Just like its companion, Tuckaleechee Caverns were also used by the Indigenous Americans in the 17th-19th century until it was discovered once more by two random 6-year-old boys who just couldn’t sit still. Little did they know back then that they’d be uncovering one of the oldest cave systems in all of the US.
Apart from the obvious sights such as stalactites and stalagmites, Tuckaleechee also houses top attractions such as a thin curtain of waterfall named Silverfalls, spring water that’s drinkable and the biggest section of the cave known as The Big Room, which is actually big enough to fit almost an entire stadium.
Once you reach The Big Room, your tour guide will turn off the lights and let you experience complete and total darkness, which leads us to warn you that if you’re afraid of the dark, maybe skip the trip to this particular cave formation?
There’s also a small well where you can toss a coin and make a wish. Later, the money will be collected and donated to the local school.
- The guided tour is a 1.25 mile round trip and lasts about 1.5 hours.
- Expect a lot of stairs.
- Caverns are open March 1 – November 30.
- Opening hours vary depending on the season, so double-check before heading out.
- Price range is between $9–$20. Free of charge for children under 5.
Address: 825 Cavern Road, Townsend, TN 37882
Gregory’s Cave gets its name from a man called JJ Gregory who used to own the land this underground cave structure is located on back in the 1800s. Once Gregory realized that his land was hiding a whole rock formation underneath, he converted it into a business – with stairs and lighted pathways – where he charged each visitor 50 cents for entry.
Gregory’s Cave is home to a very interesting array of fauna including a rare amphipod that can only be found in caverns.
Gregory’s Cave used to be one of the prime destinations for spelunkers back in the day, but now it’s only possible to enter if you’re a scientist doing research (probably should’ve swapped names with Forbidden Caverns).
If you’re a regular visitor to the Smokies, you can take a look from afar.
Alum Cave Bluff
Don’t be fooled just because it has ‘cave’ in its name – don’t forget that there’s also ‘bluff’ in it.
The truth is Alum Cave Bluff is more of a, well, massive concave bluff than a cave. It’s on the Alum Cave Trailhead on the way to Mt. LeConte. It’s a prime destination for hikers who don’t want to conquer the trail all the way to LeConte and are content with having Alum Cave as their final destination.
The trailhead stretches among some of the most scenic views in Tennessee, and even though the hike is considered moderate to challenging, a lot of families hike there together.
Useful Tips To Consider
- Be ready for humidity.
- Note that some of the cave formations require long hikes.
- It always gets chilly there so dress accordingly.
- The ground will be muddy and slick so maybe try avoiding wearing your favorite outfit and instead go for something more comfortable. That includes proper footwear.
- If you decide to hop on the trail to Alum Cave Bluff, stock up appropriately and bring lots and lots of water.
The Final Takeaway
Everyone knows that Tennessee is famous for its enormous selection of caves and caverns. A lot of people would think that the attractions that the Great Smoky Mountains offer underground are just as impressive as the ones above it, yet they’re considerably more underrated. Let this article be your inspiration to try something new. After all, if you can find more than 10,000 cave systems in a single state, it’s only fair to see what all the fuss is about, and exploring the best caverns near Pigeon Forge, TN is the ideal place to start.
Whether you’d like to take your family on an adventure, your loved one on a romantic semi-expedition or just your group of friends on a dive back in geological history, you sure are in for a treat and an unforgettable experience in any way.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about touristic destinations, sometimes life happens, weather happens, property owners happen, etc. We always recommend you go to the official web page and/or the relevant state authority page of your destination to check conditions, times and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!