Located in the Shenandoah Valley in Quicksburg, Virginia, Shenandoah Caverns has been a popular underground wonder since it first opened back in 1922. Less than two hours away from Washington, D.C., these gorgeous caves lie on the outskirts of Shenandoah National Park, making it a worthy place to visit if you're traveling near the East Coast.
This visit is effortless to plan, with local attractions and events to check out and homely places to stay nearby. So whether you're taking a road trip or planning a destination event, here's why you should consider taking an adventure through Shenandoah Caverns.
History of Shenandoah Caverns
The history of the Shenandoah Caverns started millions of years ago, when the formations were created by underground rivers and movements in the Earth's ground. The formations were shaped based on how fast the water moved and dripped off the rocks, and the glorious rugged tints and hues were created by the shifting soil and minerals.
In 1884, the caverns were discovered by a couple of young boys whose family lived in the area while the Southern Railway line was being built. Over the next few decades, ownership was passed around between a few businessmen who helped develop the area, by creating the cave's entryways and passageways, building a lodge that serves as a hotel and gift shop, and adding an elevator service.
By the time the railroad was finished in May 1922, Shenandoah Caverns was open to the public. In 1966, Earl C. Hargrove Jr., owner of a decorating company that designed parade floats for presidential inaugurals and national celebrations, excitedly bought the place, continuing to manage it with Dan Proctor, whose family had been managing the natural sensation since the 50s. When Hargrove passed away in 2015, his daughter, Kathy Hargrove Kelly, continued his legacy in overseeing the extraordinary place that she and the rest of the staff call home.
What You'll See at Shenandoah Caverns
The natural wonder is a sight to behold. As the only cavern in Virginia with an elevator service, you can solely explore the area by going on a one mile, one hour guided tour through its 17 beautifully nature-painted rooms and passageways. A well-educated and trusty tour guide will lead you through all the marvels this subterranean world has to offer, where you'll see magnificent speleothem formations (stalactites and stalagmites) along the way.
Some of the more notable rooms and formations inside include the Long View Hall, Capitol Dome, Diamond Cascade, Rainbow Lake, and Grotto of the Gods. Along this caverns tour, you will also see and learn about the famous "Breakfast Bacon formations," which were actually featured in National Geographic Magazine. They are formed by water running down rocky slopes, leaving a breath-taking color gradient in its wake from the different minerals left behind.
With the caverns deepest point sitting at 220 feet below the surface, you'll want to make sure you bring a light jacket, since the underground location keeps the place at a constant cool 56 degrees. And although there are two ramps with handrails, the cave is not ADA accessible. Wheelchairs, scooters, and strollers are allowed, as they will make it through about 80% of the tour. However, it's recommended to be mindful of how difficult it will be to navigate a wheelchair on a gravel pathway.
How To Visit
Shenandoah Caverns, located at 261 Caverns Road, is open seven days a week, with tours starting at 10:00 am. From Labor Day to Memorial Day, the tours will enter the caverns until 4:00pm, but from Memorial Day to Labor Day, they will enter until 5:00pm. Tickets for adults are $28, seniors are $25, children between the ages of 6-12 years old are $14, and children under 5 years old are free. Included in your admission is a self-guided tour of Main Street of Yesteryear.
If you're traveling with a group of 15 or more, call (540) 477-3115 or visit https://shenandoahcaverns.com/plan-your-visit for more information.
Other Attractions to See
When Hargrove still owned Shenandoah Caverns, he added a few more attractions. The Main Street of Yesteryear sits on top of the caverns lobby and takes visitors back to what advertising looked like in the 40s and 50s. Hargrove had collected antique department store window displays that were set up in popular areas during special times of the year, and they now sit in a street like manner for you to stroll through.
With his background in decorating for national celebrations, Hargrove built the American Celebration on Parade, where tourists can gaze upon the enormous sizes and incredible artistic details of historical parade floats. This attraction, however, is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day daily, from 10:00am-5:00pm.
After you've marveled at the window displays and parade floats, you can head down to the Gemstone Sluice, where you can buy a bag of mining rough and pan for gems. A fun activity that results in souvenirs for your kids, your bags might include amethyst druzes, gemstones, arrowheads, fossils, and more.
Main Street of Yesteryear
If you're interested in having a special event -- namely a wedding -- at the caverns, then you're in luck. Shenandoah Caverns presents the Yellow Barn, its event venue that is elegantly decorated with historical agricultural pieces and equipped with a large catering kitchen. You have the choice between an indoor or outdoor ceremony, and the caverns can be used as a backdrop for wedding photos.
There are also special events held at Shenandoah Caverns that you can attend throughout the year. During Halloween, you can get your fair share of scares with its haunted attraction, American Fright Night. And if you're a wine lover, then the Annual Shenandoah Uncorked Wine Festival and the Shenandoah Caverns Wine Tasting Tours are for you. You can find more information at https://shenandoahcaverns.com/special-events.
There are also many other attractions to check out outside of the caverns, for those interested in exploring more. Half a mile down the road, you can drive through Meems Bottom Covered Bridge, which is the longest covered bridge in Virginia. You can actually park near a pathway that leads to the beautiful Shenandoah River that runs underneath. And located in New Market, five miles south, is the Virginia Museum of the Civil War. With your free admission, you'll get to explore the 300-acre battlefield park that signified the historic Battle of New Market.
Meems Bottom Covered Bridge
About 10 miles north in Edinburg, you'll find the Shenandoah Valley Cultural Heritage Museum. Featuring a wine shop and restaurant, it commemorates one of the few mills that survived burning during the Civil War. And speaking of more wine, along with all the events and this museum, there are also numerous amounts of wineries and breweries within 10-15 minutes away from the caverns. You can find a complete list here.
Places to Stay
With so much to check out during your visit at Shenandoah Caverns, you're most likely going to need a place to stay. The area has a wide variety of options from luxury resorts, to bed and breakfast hotels, to campgrounds. If you want to hang out on the actual caverns property, check out Earl's Guest House AirBnb. It's a renovated version of the original 1800s farmhouse where the family who discovered the caverns had lived, and it can hold up to 14 people!
If you're a camper, then just a fourth of a mile down from the natural spectacle is Shenandoah Valley Campground, which has RV sites, tent sites, and camping cabins. However, if you're looking for more of a bed and breakfast experience, you should check out Family Farmhouse Inn and the River Bluff Farm B&B, both less than five miles away from the caverns. And if you decide you want a full luxury spa experience, head down to Lansdowne Resort and Spa in Leesburg, an hour northeast heading towards Washington, D.C.
Shenandoah Caverns isn't the only caverns in Virginia worth checking out. If you're so inspired to continue on this endless caverns journey, the Luray Caverns and the Caverns at Natural Bridge are also worth experiencing while you're still in the state.
Have you explored the depths of the any of the caverns in Virginia? Share your experience at our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
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