Exploring the Unknown on a Cave Walk
Curiosity keeps life interesting!
We want to push the limits of the known; to explore past familiar boundaries. Daily routines don’t necessarily create the fulfillment we crave. (A year with COVID-19 precautions brought this realization home!) The need for discovery is in our very DNA. How do you scratch this itch when you have to be back at work on Monday?
The answer is found right under your feet. Cave exploration opens the door to discovery and adventure.
Yes, cave exploration. Bet you didn’t expect that answer! It’s not complicated. Caving doesn’t have to involve repelling, crawling, trespassing, figuring out how to use a compass or expensive equipment.
Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee has adventures ready to satisfy, and all you’ll need is curiosity, and a good pair of walking shoes! Running year-round, guide lead Cave Walks to the tallest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States bring you deep inside Lookout Mountain. (Story continues under photo)
So, what exactly IS a Cave Walk, you ask?
Cave Walks at Ruby Falls begin with a 260-foot descent into the mountain in a glass-front elevator. Your guide greets you as you exit the elevator into the many, many centuries-old cavern and the experience kicks-off in the underground theater room with an award-winning short movie about the discovery of Ruby Falls.
After the movie, you’ll follow your guide along the almost ½ mile cavern trail to the stunning waterfall, passing beautiful ancient geological formations along the way. There is a ton to discover!
Formations, created by the minerals in dripping water over millions of years, are illuminated by energy-efficient LED lights. Lights in a cave? Without added lighting, the cavern is completely dark - and we mean 100% dark, can’t see your hand in front of your face dark. (Check out an after-hours Lantern Tour if you’d like to explore the cave with hand-held lanterns while the lights are off.)
The cave information and trail map you downloaded to your cell phone before entering the elevator gives all kinds of info about the cave’s geology and shares extra points of interest along the trail. (A link to the info is provided with your ticket email or use the QR code in the elevator waiting area.)
PRO TIP: You’ll definitely want to keep your cameras/phones out and ready as you walk. New wonders appear around EVERY corner and you don’t want to risk missing a photo opportunity or getting left behind and then feel rushed. Just go ahead and keep those out and ready to go!
Entering the waterfall room, you’re in for another treat as a cinematic score surrounds and a tasteful light show illuminates the falls, accenting the natural grooves in the limestone, carved over centuries by rushing water. The sheer beauty of the moment tends to overwhelm the senses! Some guests freeze in awe, overcome by emotions, while others commemorate the moment with a family photo. And what a backdrop!
The return walk rewards explorers with sites unseen on the trip to the waterfall, plus views from a different angle of wonders passed on the inbound trip and a few detours showcasing peculiar, other worldly formations. Leo’s Passage is a guest favorite as a tribute to the man who discovered Ruby Falls and a look at the claustrophobic conditions early explorers endured to map the way, allowing us to follow in their footsteps today.
PRO TIP: Look up! As you walk along the trail, don’t forget to look up. Otherwise, it’s easy to miss some of the most exquisite works of nature’s art.
How do you get Cave Walk tickets? (Blog continues after photo)
Just a little bit of planning ahead goes a long way. Purchase your timed-entry tickets in advance at rubyfalls.com. Walkup tickets are not sold onsite at Ruby Falls and few things are more frustrating than making the drive to find out Cave Walks are sold out for the day. Tickets sell out especially on weekends, school holidays and many summer days. Go to Rubyfalls.com to see ticket availability and snap up your tickets. It’s best not to wait until the very last minute. Getting tickets in advance is easy and allows you to plan around your vacation. If plans change, you can even log back in and switch your Cave Walk time slot yourself based on what is available. Unused Cave Walk tickets are valid an entire year from the purchase date to give you the MOST flexibility in rescheduling your visit. (Sometimes life gets in the way of plans!)
Ruby Falls is one of the most easily accessed* caves for curious explorers of all ages and backgrounds. This is a major perk!
1. Ruby Falls is located just a few minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Parking is free and plentiful!
2. The cavern trail was made tall enough in 1929 to allow guests to walk comfortably upright, taller guests may need to duck in a couple of spots.
3. No special spelunking equipment or permits are needed for this adventure.
4. Despite a few steps and slight elevation changes, the path is a mild trek for most* guests.
PRO TIP: Reserve a morning Cave Walk before 9:30 AM or an after-hours Lantern Tour if you would like to sidestep the busiest times of the day in the cave.
Now that you know the inside scoop about Cave Walks at Ruby Falls, all that’s left is to do is to come see for yourself! We can’t wait to share the discovery with you. rubyfalls.com
*For your safety, all guests should be able to comfortably be on their feet for up to 90 minutes, walking 1-mile roundtrip over slight elevation changes, including several groupings of 5 or so steps at a steady pace without assistance. There is low lighting in the cave. As you might imagine, our park offers sensory stimulation including crowds, darkness, varied levels of lighting in the cavern, noises, colored and changing lighting, narrow cavern passages, music with volume changes, group tours, enclosed areas and close proximity with other guests in confined areas. The cavern is not wheelchair or stroller accessible due to the natural terrain.
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