When most people think of Alabama, the first thing that comes to mind is probably football. But there’s a lot more to the state than just Crimson Tide fandom! Alabama is home to some of the most beautiful and fascinating natural wonders in the country, including several incredible caves. The state is filled with them, without having to mention the old mining shafts and natural caverns that run throughout parts of Birmingham. Here are five of the best caves in Alabama that you definitely won’t want to miss.
1. Cathedral Caverns
Located in Marshall County, Cathedral Caverns is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alabama. This cave is known for its massive size; at one point, it was even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the widest cave entrance in the world! In addition to its impressive size, Cathedral Caverns is also home to some truly unique rock formations, including “Goliath,” a 45-foot-tall stalagmite.
Cathedral Caverns offers a variety of guided tours, allowing visitors to explore different sections of the cave and learn about its unique geology. The tour guides are knowledgeable and friendly, making it easy for even novice cavers to enjoy their experience.
Aside from the incredible underground landscape, Cathedral Caverns is also home to a wide range of fascinating wildlife. On any visit, you may spot salamanders, bats, crayfish, or other animals that make this cave system their home. In addition, birdwatchers will enjoy catching glimpses of various species outside the cavern entrance in the surrounding woods.
2. Russell Cave
Russell Cave is a National Monument located in northeastern Alabama, near the town of Bridgeport. This cave was used as a shelter by Native Americans for over 10,000 years and contains some of the oldest evidence of human habitation in North America. Today, Russell Cave is open to the public for tours led by park rangers.
Visitors can explore a variety of underground caverns, including pathways that lead to the surface and natural chambers. Used for centuries by prehistoric inhabitants, the cave contains numerous animal bones, including those of bison, bear and elk. There are also artifacts such as pottery, arrowheads, and tools used by Native Americans throughout the years.
3. DeSoto Caverns
DeSoto Caverns is a family-friendly destination located in Childersburg, just south of Birmingham. This cave features several kid-friendly attractions, including an onsite water park, a zip line course, and a ropes course. In addition to its recreational offerings, DeSoto Caverns is also home to some stunning rock formations and crystal-clear underground lakes. Visitors can take a guided tour of the cave and learn how it was formed thousands of years ago. The onsite museum houses artifacts and history that date back to the early 1800s, when Native Americans lived in the area. For those looking for a more spiritual experience, DeSoto Caverns is also home to America’s “largest natural cathedral”.
4. Rickwood Caverns
Rickwood Caverns State Park is located in Warrior, just northwest of Birmingham. This park offers visitors the opportunity to explore both above and below ground; in addition to its show cavern (which features an impressive 60-foot waterfall), Rickwood Caverns State Park also has hiking trails, picnicking areas, and a playground. The caverns were formed over millions of years, and feature breathtaking stalagmites, stalactites, and other fascinating formations. Other attractions include a gift shop, a museum with prehistoric artifacts, and an on-site snack bar.
5. Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Key Cave National Wildlife Refuge is located in northwestern Alabama near Florence. The highlight of this refuge is definitely Key Cave itself, which is home to one of the largest populations of endangered gray bats in the world. The refuge also offers opportunities for hiking, camping, canoeing, and fishing.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or just a chance to appreciate nature, Alabama’s caves have something for everyone. So get out there and explore!