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Ultimate Guide to Moaning Caverns, California

Ultimate Guide to Moaning Caverns, California

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Moaning Caverns has the largest public cave chamber in California. The cave was formed from limestone, and it has some large, impressive formations that incudes large flowstone formations. Tours to the cavern began in the mid-1800s when visitors were lowered into the main chamber in a bucket and only had a candle to light up the way. 

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Moaning Caverns, California 

The main highlight of Moaning Caverns is its tours, as the main focus is on the history of the cave, the geology, and its formation. At the beginning of the tour, one would see ancient artifacts and human remains on display. The underground tours are thrilling, but the park offers a climbing tower and thrilling Ziplines above ground. 

History of Moaning Caverns

Moaning Caverns is an important archaeological site where experts have discovered some of the oldest human remains of the US. Noted archaeologists have opined that the human deposits were around 12,000 years old as they were found under 420mm of speleotherm mineral deposits. However, many other human bones have been found in these caves, and some of them are recent. 

Miners had invaded this area in large numbers in the 1840s in search of gold, and they had explored the cavern to a great extent. They did not find any gold as they had hoped but came across a mound of skeletons. J.B.Trask had said that the cavern had four rooms – the main room, a second room 100 ft below the main room, and a couple of other rooms. Several human skeletons were found in the 2nd lower room. 

In 1920 a group of residents bought this cave through a logging claim. The members of the group explored the caverns and decided to open them for future tours. The new owners widened the main entrance so that people could pass through. In 1921 wooden stairs were built, and in 1922 a spiral staircase was built for the benefit of the visitors, after which the cave was thrown open to the public. The 1st Moaning Cavern Visitor Center was built in 1924.

The ownership of the cavern has changed hands several times over the years, and the visitor center has undergone extensive renovations. Today the Moaning Cavern has a nature gift shop, gem mining center, a nature trail, provisions for cave tours, and picnic areas. 

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Geological Cave Formations in Moaning Caverns 

The huge open chamber of Moaning Caverns gives you a stunning display of the geological formations. There is a cave corral on the far wall that looks stunningly beautiful. Some of the other majestic formations include a 20-foot igloo, a wolf’s tooth, a large mushroom, and 100 ft brown waterfall, and flowers made from crystal.

If one is creative, he will be able to visualize different animals and faces. There are loads of stalactites that hang from the cavern’s roof, stalagmites jetting out from the floors, and helictite crystals growing from the walls horizontally.

Wildlife in Moaning Caverns 

Moaning Caverns, just like any other cave in the region, have bats, cave spiders, and crickets to give you company.

Is Moaning Caverns Haunted?

It is not a confirmed ghost story, but the prevailing legend is that Miwok Native Americans who knew of the Moaning Caverns used to tell their children that a rock monster who lived in the cave, was responsible for the moaning sound. One could hear the moaning sound across the undulating landscape.

The children were told the if they went too close to the entrance, the monster would eat them. This tale was told to keep the children away from the cave entrance so that they do not fall to their death.

However, when the European settlers discovered the cave, the remains of at least 100 people were found at the bottom of the cavern. However, it is now believed that the moaning sounds were created during the rainstorms from echoes of dripping water.

How Big is Moaning Caverns?

Moaning Caverns has the single largest cave chamber that is open to the public. The vast room reaches over 180 ft before it funnels into small passageways. The open area inside the chamber is so large that it can hold the entire Statue of Liberty.  

Moaning Caverns in California
Photo Credit: Moaning Caverns

Moaning Cavern Tours

Moaning Caverns has different kinds of tours, and reservation is strongly recommended for all activities. 

Spiral Tour

You will go down sixteen stories underground via the spiral staircase into the deepest cave in the state and witness massive cave formations. One will get to learn about the geology of this fantastic cavern and learn how stalagmites and flowstones were formed over the years. You will also see the moaning holes – rock formations caused by the continuous dripping water, which causes the moaning sound. 

Expedition Tour

You will only have a cave helmet to lighten up your way. In this tour, you will get a chance to climb, crawl, and squeeze through the unlit areas of the cave below the main chamber. You will get to explore areas that have names like Meat Grinder and Godzilla’s Nostril. The cavern tour is only for 12 years, and parents must accompany children. The tour has options for early exits if anyone runs into unexpected problems. 

In addition to the 45 minutes Spiral Tour, the daring guests can opt to rappel in by rope – 165 ft to the bottom of the main chamber. Prior experience is not necessary here as all kinds of equipment and training will be provided to the participants. The rappel is also the optional beginning of the 3-hour Expedition Tour as the participants will go on a challenging route with only the light from their helmets showing the way. Prior reservation is mandatory for this tour.   

Moaning Caverns Tour Prices and Discounts

The cost of the different tours are as follows – 

  • Walking Tour – USD 12.95 per adult, USD 6.50 per child 
  • Rappel – USD 59 for adults, USD 39 for a child 
  • Three Hour Adventure Tour with no rappel – USD 69 and with rappel – USD 119
  • Zip Line – USD 79 for three zips
  • Gemstone Mining Cost – USD 6.99 to 9.99 + tax
  • Geode Cracking Cost – USD 10 each + tax

Is Moaning Cavern Cold?

The cave has a constant temperature of 61 degrees F with mild to high humidity. 

What to Wear?

Most of the visitors who come here wear short sleeves and shorts. However, if you get cold easily, then you should bring a light jacket or sweater. For Expedition tours, you need special clothing and gear, and this information will be shared with you when you book this tour 

Moaning Cavern Hours

Operating Hours of the Cavern

  • Mon to Friday – 11 am to 3 pm.
  • Sat to Sun – 9 am to 5 pm.

Spiral Cave Tour

  • Thu to Mon – 10:00 to 4:00 pm

Expedition Tour

  • Saturdays and Sundays – 10 am

Gift Shop

  • Thursday to Monday – 10 am to 4 pm

What to Do at Moaning Caverns (Beside Tours)

The park offers various activities for both adults and kids to enjoy besides the standard cave tours. You should explore the gift shop, which has a huge variety of souvenirs on offer such as shirts, hats, glassware, unique gifts, jewelry, and various fun stuff to suit people of all ages. You can also grab mouthwatering snacks like ice cream, chips, and candy. The gift shop also has minerals and rocks available for purchase apart from books on Moaning Cavern.  

Gemstone mining and gold panning is a popular activity here among kids and adults. Just pick out a bag of rough from the gift shop. You can choose from several kinds and mine out the contents into the flume using a screen-bottomed box. You can also purchase geodes from the Moaning Caverns Visitor Center. Just pick up a dull-looking rock and be the first to see the unique crystals formed thousands of years ago. 

There are also axe throwing lanes at the Moaning Caverns Adventure Park, where you can test your aim by hitting the bullseye! 

Best Time to Visit Moaning Caverns

The best time to visit Moaning Caverns is in the winter, early spring, and late fall as it is less crowded. Moaning Caverns is open 364 days a year, and the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day are the busiest times, and it gets crowded on weekends.  

How to Get to Moaning Caverns 

Moaning Caverns is far from almost all major cities, but you can come here on a day trip from Sacramento. Others can book a hotel at Murphy’s and make it a weekend trip to enjoy the caverns fully.

From Stockton

Drive east on Highway 4 for a little more than 50 miles to Vallecito and Parrott’s Ferry Road. Then turn right and go for 1.6 miles to Moaning Cave Road. Again turn right and go for 0.6 miles to reach the Moaning Cavern. 

Provide a safe bat habitat
Provide a safe bat habitat!

Hotels near Moaning Cavern

There are excellent accommodation options near Moaning Caverns, such as Murphys Suites, Best Western Cedar Inn & Suites, and Wyndham Angels Camp. 

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Visiting Moaning Caverns 

Do you need more information before visiting Moaning Caverns? Call (209) 736 – 2708 for an information packet. 

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