Ultimate Guide to Mitchell Caverns, California (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
We may have been compensated for this post. Please keep in mind that it affects you in no way financially. If an item is being reviewed, we are not obligated to give a positive review and always use our own words. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. If you would like a review done contact Dannelle at DannelleGay@gmail.com
Mitchell Caverns are located in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. It is at a remote location at an altitude of 4300 ft. Mitchell Caverns are open to the public to tour, and the fantastic ranger-led tour lasts for around two hours. The newly paved trails make the experience smooth and easy.
Mitchell Caverns, California
The Caverns were primarily created by the dissolution of sedimentary limestone and metamorphosed limestone by groundwater high in carbonic acid content. The caverns were formed as the stone dissolved, and the continuous dripping of the mineralized water helped create beautiful geological formations.
History of Mitchell Caverns
Mitchell Caverns is one of the most spectacular wonders of California that lies underground at the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. The Mitchell Caverns were formed from limestone when this area was the bed of a shallow sea.
In 1929 Jack Mitchell got fascinated by the Providence caves. He began to imagine many things by considering the possibility of beautiful formations such as spires and draperies. He built a road and began to provide food, lodging, and guided tours of the caverns to groups who came to see this new attraction as the site became gradually known to many people.
Mitchell and his wife Ida ran a resort that included tours of the caverns from 1934 to 1954. The Mitchells also had mining rights to the area and had dug several prospect holes, and some of these are still visible today.
The area was converted into a state park in 1956, and the surrounding lands were counted as a part of the National Park Service Mojave National Preserve in 1994. However, the caves are still owned and operated by the state of California.
Geological Cave Formations
Hundreds of stalagmites, stalactites and various natural formations adorn the caverns. These formations came into being after mineralized water seeped down into the underground caves for millions of years. The mineralized water dripped down the ceiling of the caves forming stalactites and covering the ceiling and walls with draperies.
Stalagmites were formed when the mineralized water fell on the floor of the cave. Studies have revealed that the formations inside the cave are still growing as mineralized water is brought down into the caves by the rainfall.
Wildlife in Mitchell Caverns
Paleontologists have found remains of many prehistoric animals, including a Shasta ground sloth. Today, tourists can look for two different kinds of insects that are located here – a Niptus beetle and a pseudoscorpion which is somewhat like a land crab. These two tiny insects are not found anywhere else in the world except these caverns. You need to be lucky to come across these species on your trip to Mitchell Caverns, as they are hard to locate!
Is Mitchell Caverns Haunted?
Mitchell Caverns is one of the more famous show caves in Southern California and is in no way haunted. It receives many tourists every year.
How Big is Mitchell Caverns?
Mitchell Caverns are a trio of limestone caves located at an elevation of 4300 ft in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.
Mitchell Caverns Tours
Mitchell Caverns are only accessible by a guided tour that takes place only twice a week. It is hard to book the tour due to the rush, but it takes only a couple of hours to explore the caves and learn about their history. Since the caverns are a bit far away, we recommend that you arrive here at least 30 to 40 min early. You can utilize the time to explore the visitor center and take a walk around the short trail to view the cactus and the historical plaques. There are two restrooms here as well, in case you need to use it.
When the time comes for the tour, the guide will first tell you about the history of the cave and about the Mitchells who ran the cave initially, after whom the cave is named. After hearing the history, you will be heading out on the trail for about 1/3rd of a mile hike to the spot where the cave is. Along the way, you will be stopped multiple times to be told about the plant and animal life and about the gold mines that were originally here. There are lots of plants and animals in this area which you will not find anywhere else. You will reach the cave entrance after crossing a small bridge.
From here, the tour gets more exciting as you will be spending the next 45 min in the cave. The geological formations here are simply mind-blowing, and it features a column that is a connected stalactite and stalagmite. You will find such connecting pieces in only 1 out of 4000 caves in the world.
The cave has multiple rooms where you can spend time and learn more about it. One will also come across unique formations called cave shields found only in 60-odd caves in the US. The tours go up and down the stairs through small tunnels and large rooms. The tour ends in a large room in the 2nd part of the cave. It is a massive room, and since some light comes in, you can see around without the help of added lights. The journey back from the cave is about ½ a mile to the area where you had parked.
Always have a reservation for the tours which take place only from Friday to Saturday. There are two tours per day – one at 11 am and another one at 2 pm. Each tour can take in a maximum of fifteen people. Reservations have to be made by phone to the Visitor’s Center during the week.
Tour Prices and Discounts
One needs to shell out an entry fee of USD 10 per vehicle and USD 9 for seniors who are more than 62 years of age. The tour price is USD 10 per individual, USD 9 for seniors above 62 years of age, and USD 5 per child (16 years and under). One can pay either by cash or credit cash, but since the park is in a remote area, we recommend you use a card for payments.
Is Mitchell Caverns Cold?
The temperature inside the cave is always a cool and comfortable 65 degrees F. You can carry a light sweater or jacket if you tend to feel the chill quickly.
What to Wear?
One must wear closed-toe shoes and bring some layers. Since the caverns are high on the mountains, it can get chilly sometimes. The temperatures inside the caverns remain warmer when the outside is cold and becomes cooler when the outside temperatures are hot.
Remember not to wear anything that you have worn into another cave in the last six years. The rule has been in place to protect the bats from White Nose Syndrome.
Mitchell Caverns Hours
The caves are open from 8:00 in the morning to 5 pm, Friday to Sunday, and on those Mondays that fall on a holiday. The caverns remain closed from Tuesday to Thursday, on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
What to Do at Mitchell Caverns (Beside Tours)
A visit to Mitchell Caverns should not end with a tour of the caves only. The Providence Mountain State Recreation Area is a unique destination filled with geological wonders, scenic beauty, and top-notch hiking trails. One can also camp in the Hole-in-the-Wall area of the park.
There are four hiking options, with the trailheads located at the information center and a campground and picnic area. You can view the desert plants on the Nature Trail, grab a fantastic view at the Barber Peak Loop or look for Petroglyphs on the Rings Loop Trail.
Best Time to Visit
The most popular months to visit Mitchell Caverns are October to November and February to April.
How To Get To Mitchell Caverns
If you are coming here from Southern California, it would be a long drive to Mitchell Caverns. You can consider spending the night at any place so that you feel recharged for the journey. Take the 15 North to Barstow, and then head eastward on the 40 Freeway. It takes around 90 min from Barstow with no gas or food en route.
So it would help if you packed it all in before you start the journey. When you reach Essex Road, you need to head north into Mojave National Preserve. There are ample signs all around that will take you to the caverns, and you park there in the designated area.
Hotels near Mitchell Caverns
Many decent accommodations near Mitchell Caverns, such as Primm Valley Resort, but most offer basic facilities.
Visiting Mitchell Caverns
Do you need more information before visiting Mitchell Caverns? Call (760) 928-2586 for an information packet.
Other Articles You May Enjoy:
- Best Caving Carabiner: Top Picks for Safe and Secure Caving Exploration
- Ultimate Guide to Cave at Backbone State Park, Iowa (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
- Best Caving Gloves for Ultimate Protection: Top Picks in 2023
- Ultimate Guide to Old Spanish Treasure Cave, Arkansas (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
- Best Caving Knee Pads for Protection and Comfort