Vintage Ruby Falls postcard

Our Story

Vintage photo of Leo Lambert
Scrapbook photo of vintage car with Ruby Falls bumper tag
Layered postcards
Vintage Ruby Falls photo

Big Dreams and an Accidental Discovery

It was an unlikely chemist from Indiana who ushered in a new age of exploration with a big dream and an accidental discovery deep within Lookout Mountain. The discovery of Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the legacy it created is both remarkable and endearing. It is a tale of unlikely odds, love and determination.

See Ruby Falls!

For decades, Ruby Falls parking attendants placed a coveted souvenir on the bumper of cars parked at Ruby Falls while guests explored the cave. 'See Ruby Falls' tags wired carefully to each bumper quickly became more than a souvenir – it was a symbol of wanderlust, curiosity, and the thrill of discovery. To keep up with the demand, tour guides were tasked with cutting wire between tours.

Postcards Tell the Story

From honeymoon bliss to retirement adventures, family vacations to solo road trips and every major life milestone, Ruby Falls postcards became storytellers of cherished memories for 95 incredible years.

Love Stories

More than a century of love stories are woven into the legacy of Ruby Falls. Through generations and changing times, the park remains a timeless witness to the power of love.

Black and white photo of Ruby Falls

Celebrating 95 Years
of Wonder


The Growing City

Chattanooga was rapidly growing by the turn of the century. To meet the demand for expanded railway service, a new train tunnel was built through Lookout Mountain. The new tunnel blocked access to Lookout Mountain Cave; a cave well known through centuries of use, first by Native people, and later followed by visits for clandestine meetings, use as a hospital during the Civil War, and as a legendary hideout for moonshine runners and thieves.

Vintage black and white photo of Chattanooga
Vintage photo of McCallie Ave in Chattanooga
Grace Allen Mackay portrait by Horace Brazelton


A Dream Takes Shape

Leo Lambert learned about the rich history and folklore of Lookout Mountain Cave shortly after he married his high school sweetheart, Ruby Losey, in 1916. Determined to open the cave to the public, Leo began a decade-long quest, researching methods to access the long-sealed cave.

Young Leo and Ruby photo
Ruby Losey Lambert Age 16
Framed photo of Ruby as a young woman


Vintage newspaper clipping of cave drilling

An Unconventional Plan Launches

Leo Lambert puts his plan in motion after securing $250,000 from investors for his fledgling Lookout Mountain Cave Company. Construction of an elevator shaft descending 420 feet through the solid limestone forming Lookout Mountain begins. The elevator will give access to Lookout Mountain Cave. Excavated limestone will be used to build what becomes known as "the most beautiful cave entrance in the world," a castle!

Progress to reach Lookout Mountain Cave is slow. Working around the clock, the crew removes 5 feet of limestone every 24 hours. Several weeks into the project and at a depth of 260-feet into the mountain, they hit a void in the rock and felt a rush of air escape through the mysterious opening.

Leo Lambert and a small crew crawl through the dark chasm, unsure what they will find. They return 17-hours later after finding flowing underground streams, geological formations, and a plunging waterfall. Leo names the waterfall Ruby Falls in honor of his wife.


Grand Opening

Ruby Falls Castle, built with limestone removed during excavation for the elevator shaft, is finished in 1929 and Lookout Mountain Cave opens to the public for tours in December after a grand opening ceremony and much fanfare from local press. Ruby Falls Cave opens for tours six months later in June 1930.

Dec 1929 Newspaper Clipping
December 1929
Leo Lambert and original company officers in 1929
Colorized 1929 Castle Photo at Ruby Falls


Dance hall at Ruby Falls
Old newspaper clipping of a dance promotion at Ruby Falls
December 1933


Ruby Falls Castle quickly became a popular social gathering hub with a fashionable tearoom by day, and at night, an upscale restaurant with live orchestra accompanied dinner dances and “the largest ballroom in the city” according to newspaper descriptions. Social gatherings at the Castle are frequently highlighted newspapers for the next 20 years, making the Castle beloved by both tourists and locals.


Ruby Falls Fallout Shelter

Ruby Falls Cave takes on an unusual role as a designated Civil Defense fallout shelter. Food, water, and medical supplies to sustain 720 people for several weeks were stored in the cave. The cave’s unique location made it an ideal public shelter during a tense time in US history.

Ruby Falls Fallout shelter photo with vintage cars in the parking lot


National Register of Historic Places

Ruby Falls Cave, the waterfall, and iconic limestone castle are listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the significant role the attraction has played in the region’s tourism development.

National Register Plaque for Ruby Falls


Sustainable Tourism

Ruby Falls becomes the first attraction in the United States to earn Green Globe certification, the respected worldwide standard for sustainability.

Green Globe Certified Logo


A Re-Imagined Ruby Falls

In June 2018, Ruby Falls unveiled a picturesque expansion with new venues and enhanced amenities, creating a re-imagined guest experience designed to highlight the natural beauty of Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga.

Photo of Ruby Falls Castle
Grand Opening 2018 Ruby Falls Ribbon Cutting
June 2018
Entrance to Ruby Falls


Restoration of the Historic Castle

Ruby Falls Castle built in 1929 is restored, and the Castle Café opens. The project merges the castle’s history as a social gathering place with modern comforts and 21st century sustainability practices.

Black and white photo of Ruby Falls Dance Hall
Modern photo of the Castle cafe with tables and chairs
Older couple in front of the fireplace
December 2022


Celebrating 95 Years of Wonder

The 95th anniversary of the discovery of Ruby Falls kicks off a year-long celebration.

Vintage Car with Bumper Tag
Vintage black and white photo of Ruby Falls Entrance
95 topiary at Ruby Falls
March 2024
An upscale treehouse with the words
Treetop Hideaways at Ruby Falls
A woman looks over and smiles from a climbing wall

Our Story Continues

When Leo Lambert discovered Ruby Falls in 1928, he had big dreams. Today, the park welcomes over half a million guests from around globe each year. Experiencing the wonder of nature continues to be as timeless and inspiring as it was in 1928. We’re passionate about our role as careful stewards of Ruby Falls for the next generation to learn from and enjoy. Never stop exploring!

A woman rides a zipline through trees
Two women look at cave formations
A tour guide shines a flashlight upward in the caves alongside a guest

Discover More

Immerse yourself in nature with breathtaking views, one-of-a-kind adventures, award-winning special events and luxury treehouse lodging.

A 1980s-era photo of a woman and three girls in front of the Ruby Falls arch A woman carries a child and follows another child through a cave

Become part of Ruby Falls history!