The Best List of Caves in California
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California is known for its natural beauty, which stretches to its borders and covers the entire state. It is one of the places where beauty above the ground competes well with the beauty that lies below the ground. A quick look at this observation would compel any reader to ask, “are there any caves in California?”
Yes, California has a series of interconnected caverns, and the state claims to have the most extensive system of passageways and caverns. If you want to experience caving for the first time then California is the perfect place to start your spelunking journey.
The Best List of Caves in California
Each of the caves will intrigue you and gives you a great introduction to the world below your feet.
The Top Caves to Visit in California
If you love hiking in the dark or enjoy adventuring in tight spots, then the caves in California would be your favorite place on earth. You will be impressed with the rock formations and lava tubes and enjoy exploring the gems underneath. You should come dressed in light clothing and carry 2 to 3 flashlights, bottled water and be in a pair of comfortable shoes.
The most popular caves in the state are –
- Black Chasm Cavern
- Boyden Cavern
- Burro Flats Painted Cave
- California Caverns
- Chumash Painted Cave
- Crystal Cave
- Hall City Cave
- Infernal Caverns
- Lake Shasta Caverns
- Lava Beds National Monument
- Mercer Caverns
- Mitchell Caverns
- Moaning Cavern
- Mud Caves
- Ursa Minor
- Subway Cave
- Mitchell Caverns
- The Lava Tube
- Bear Gulch Cave
- Balconies Cave
- The Arroyo Tapiado
There are many other cave options in the state apart from the ones mentioned above. However, these caves are some of the most famous ones, and people tend to come here repeatedly.
Let’s break this down a bit……
Best Caves in California
The following caves should be on the top of your sightseeing list.
Hiking Caves in California
There are a few caves in the state which can be reached only when you are on a hiking trail.
Cave of Munits
Located within El Escoprion Park, the cave has an exciting history. As per local accounts, the cave was used as a home by a shaman who murdered the son of a politically significant chief, thereby bringing his downfall. It is a mysterious natural landmark, no doubt, and one must hike along the El Escorpion Trail till you reach the chimney cave.
There are cracks all around and a large main hall. If adventurous enough, you can climb up the chimney and continue your trail to arrive at a huge rock pile. From here you can enjoy the glorious views of the surroundings.
The Balconies Cave & Bear Gulch Cave
What strikes me most about these caves is that they were not built by mud or volcanic forces. They are the finest examples of talus caves and are suitable for people who have never explored a cave before. The various passages present in the caves and the rock-climbing routes offer good opportunities for experienced cavers.
Lava Caves in California
The state has an excellent collection of caves formed by lava, and they attract tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Lava Beds National Monument
Lava Beds National Monument is in a remote California location, but it has over 700 lava tube caves. However, only 20 of these most developed caves can be explored by people of all skills levels. The guided tours are available, which will help you learn more about these cave systems, and all the guests are encouraged to speak to the staff at the visitor center. Most of the lava tubes here are easy to explore, but Labyrinth and Lava Brook are challenging ones and do involve a fair amount of crawling.
It can be found in the Lassen National Forest and not too far from the Lava Beds National Monument. Subway Cave is a large and open lava tube, and it extends for 1/3rd of a mile. The floor is quite bumpy, but you will encounter some exciting rock formations making it a must-visit lava tube cave in California. In the summer, guided tours are available and will help you understand this place’s history.
Moaning Caves in California
What is a moaning cave? A cave is attributed to the sound that people used to hear coming from them. Pretty simple, huh?
Moaning Caverns, Vallecito
The Moaning Caverns, the largest public cavern in California, was discovered by miners in 1851. It is so huge that it can accommodate the entire Statue of Liberty. The Moaning Caverns were so named as people used to hear spooky sounds coming from the cave entrance.
There are two platforms in the main chamber, and visitors can take the stairwell to get down to the high of the two platforms, 65 ft underground. You can then use the ten-story spiral staircase to get down to the second platform at the base of the chamber. Once you are here, you will see stalagmites around 14 ft long and impressive flowstone formations.
A special spelunking tour is carried out here that that you to the deepest burrows of the cave. There are no lights in the passages; you must make your way through crawling or lowering yourself through the narrow passageways with a rope. The guides are highly trained and will help you at every step. There is a gift shop here from where you can choose treasures to take home with you, such as minerals and rocks from around the world.
Mining Caves in California
Big Horn Caving Mine
Although it has been named a cave, it is less of a cave and more like a gold mine. The cave is located near Mount Baden-Powell, and it goes a reasonable distance into the mountain. It features the remnants of the mining operation that took place outside.
Sea Caves in California
There are quite a few naturally created sea caves in California, and each cave is a little different from the other one. Most of these caves are not so deep that you would require a headlamp, but you can bring your phone for photos and use the flashlight, if necessary.
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego
The cave is a bit hidden and looks mysterious but is worth every effort. When you reach the Cabrillo National Monument, you need to walk along the edge of the cliff to reach the quite intimidating cave. But the path is wide enough for one person at a time to walk on. In the end, you will come to a beautiful cave opening. However, getting into the bottom of the cave is possible during low tide only, but it can be dangerous even at that time.
Crystal Cove Sea Cave
One will come across this cave in the beautiful Crystal Cove Sea State Park, but it is accessible only during the low tide. There are many tide pools near this cave which gets exposed during low tide too.
Sunny Jim Cave, La Jolla
It is the largest sea cave in La Jolla and one of the easiest to spot. One can easily find this cave as it is surrounded by The Cave Store, which charges a small fee for admission. But this cave is ideal for beginners or those afraid of dark places as the path is well-lit, paved, and entirely safe. It is possible to walk the La Jolla shores during low tide to get to the La Jolla Caves Beach, a spot well known for its caves.
Beach Caves in California
Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu
The Leo Carrillo State Park is a beautiful area full of tiny sea caves and rock arches. These caves are fun to explore and safe too. The caves are in a rocky point with a lifeguard tower that separates South Beach and North Beach. The caves are fully visible during low tide.
Thousand Steps Beach Cave, Laguna Beach
The cave on Laguna Beach is the most impressive beach cave that you will ever come across. It is the Southern end of Thousand Steps Beach, a beautiful sandy beach but accessible only after you go down a long set of stairs. On the North end of the beach, there is a rock arch leading to a hidden beach on the other side. When you come here during low tide, you will be able to see both the features.
Dana Sea Caves, Dana Point
Like all other caves, the Dana Sea caves are best viewed in low tide. One can start at the Dana Point Headlands Beach and walk around but keep the eyes open for a small slot in the rocks. It is the back door of the cave, which has a large opening but is lower in the water. However, the path to get to this rock is rocky and a bit unstable; so, one should come equipped with a good pair of shoes.
Salt Caves in California
Have you tried halotherapy yet? Although it sounds weird, it is very relaxing.
SALTS, Granite Bay
SALTS is a medical spa that specializes in halotherapy. If you are in desperate need of rejuvenation, then you must come down to this place. The center boasts a cozy and sophisticated atmosphere. The salt rooms are filled with salts covering the ground, and there is a halogenerator that disperses salt into the air.
When you inhale, the salt particles immediately absorb the allergens and toxins in the lungs. Salt therapy is highly beneficial for people who suffer from asthma, allergies, or bronchitis.
Salt Oasis, Rancho Cucamonga
Salt Oasis looks like a traditional spa from the outside, but it is anything but ordinary when you step inside. As soon as you step in, you will know that you are in for a world-class rejuvenating experience. The most noteworthy feature is the purity of the air and the warm lighting that perfectly suits your mood.
There is also soothing music that is continuously played, and you will also hear the sound of a steady waterfall. You need to grab a chair, sink in and let the salt particles start their healing process. The salt will completely detoxify your body and make your breathing easier.
Underwater Caves in California
Hidden in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, the California Caverns was the first cave that was open to the public in the 1850s. There is an elaborate network of tunnels and crystalline chambers present at 80 ft below the earth’s surface. The network stretches for 2 ½ miles making it the most comprehensive cave system in the state.
In the caverns, the temperature remains at a constant 53.8 degrees F throughout the year. So, when you come here on a hot summer day, the cave climate will feel like heaven to you. The most striking feature of the California Cavern is the underground lakes. These pools of water seem to be completely dark, but when you shine a light at them, it becomes crystal clear.
As you can tell, the state of California has a lot of caves to explore. Make certain to always be safe and prepared before entering any cave so you can make your cave experience a good one!
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