The Natural State is a gorgeous, highly sought-after destination for outdoor adventurers. In addition to stunning gorges and more lakes than you can count, the caves in Arkansas are prime for exploration! From accommodating show caves to backwoods hidden gems, the Arkansas cave systems offer something for every kind of caver. There are so many caves in the state that it’s almost impossible to take a hike in the Ozarks without stumbling across a rock shelter or cave of some sort. Of course, not all of these caves are interesting or even accessible. In this guide, we’ll give you all the details on the best caves in Arkansas to explore!
Exploring Arkansas With Let’s Roam
From charming towns to bustling cities, we’ve got your Arkansas vacation covered! Check out our full series of scavenger hunts in the Natural State to add some adventure to your sightseeing. Our hunts are chock full of informative trivia, lighthearted challenges, and awesome photo ops. Plus, you can gather your crew and take them along for the ride. After you finish checking these caves in Arkansas off your list, get to know the rest of your surroundings, too!
The Best Caves in Arkansas to Explore
Whether you’re looking for a spelunking adventure, an easy stroll in a show cave, or a luxury stay in the coolest cave home on earth, you’ll find it here. There are a handful of privately owned show caves and 2,000 documented wild caves and rock shelters to explore. Here are the best cave tours in the state in no particular order.
Writer Note: As a full-time world traveler and an Arkansas native, what I can tell you from personal experience is that Northwest Arkansas is jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially in the spring and fall. The rolling mountains, winding rivers, and colorful foliage set the backdrop for adorable mountain towns, quirky cities, and truly special campgrounds. It’s the kind of place where locals live their summer days on pontoon boats and their nights around the campfire with s’mores. Kayaking, hiking, and fishing are the name of the game, and the slower pace of life provides an ideal vacation vibe when you need a rejuvenating break from the hustle.
1. Blanchard Springs Caverns
Before its closure due to a bat-killing fungus, Devil’s Den was arguably Arkansas’s most popular cave, but that title now goes to Blanchard Springs Caverns in Mountain View. It has earned the accolade, though. It’s fabulous! The tri-level show cave is the second-longest in Arkansas (at just over eight miles of explored passages) and the largest by volume.
The limestone cave is thought to be millions of years old, formed when the whole area was under the sea. No longer inhabited by sea creatures, the cave is now home to mosses, salamanders, spot frogs, and tourists. With multiple well-lit trails, exploring the continually forming rock formations of this “living cave” is a breeze.
Dripstone Trail traverses the first level, is stroller and wheelchair accessible, and is open year-round. You’ll see the most impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straws. Discovery Trail is a little longer and requires you to tackle nearly 700 stairs. Blanchard also offers a Wild Cave Tour, which requires donning special equipment, crawling, and climbing through the undeveloped portions of the cave.
2. Bull Shoals Caverns
Even as a native Arkansan, I traveled to Bull Shoals multiple times before realizing there was a cavern. Most locals flock to the area for fishing on the White River or watersports on beautiful Bull Shoals Lake. Turns out there’s a cave, and it’s a pretty good one at that!
Located in the stunning Ozark Mountains, Bull Shoals Caverns is considered to be one of the oldest limestone caves in the world. While not a large cave, it does contain an underground stream and waterfall at its deepest section. It also boasts just about every known rock formation. From box work and graptolites to cave pearls, the cavern has it all.
It’s thought that Native Americans inhabited the cave as far back as 10,000 years ago, but the cavern was opened to the public in 1958. They offer a 45-minute guided tour on concrete boardwalks with railings and ample lighting. It’s a short tour, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the hiking trails and fishing on the nearby lake. The cave also hosts frequent weddings, so if you have a hankering for subterranean nuptials, here’s your spot!
3. Mystic Caverns
Located in Northwest Arkansas between the outdoor mecca of Jasper and Harrison, Mystic Caverns was once a favorite attraction for families camping in Jasper, floating the Buffalo River, and visiting the now-defunct amusement park Dogpatch USA. The cave and neighboring Crystal Dome have been closed since November 2021 for no released reason. We include it on the list because there are rumors that a higher-up from Bass Pro Shop has purchased both the caves along with his 2021 purchase of Dogpatch, and we’re crossing our fingers for a reopening soon!
Mystic Caverns is a stunning showcase with a 30-foot tall “Pipe Organ” calcite formative, spherical stalactites, and pristine helictites. Neighboring Crystal Dome is 70 feet tall at its peak and features bright white formations that dazzle! Rise up Arkansans, and start sending some emails. We need this cavern tour back!
4. Old Spanish Treasure Cave
The lore of this cave is even more alluring that the natural beauty. Since the 1800s, a saucy little rumor has been floating around that there is buried Spanish treasure within the cave system. Expert seekers have been looking for the hidden treasure ever since but to no avail. Perhaps you’ll be the one to find the gold somewhere in a hidden passageway.
Located in Sulphur Springs, Old Spanish Treasure Cave is a fun outing for the whole family. The tour is short, at just 1/3 mile, and they definitely play up the whole conquistador legend, making it a fun tour for the littles. The park also includes a gemstone panning exhibit, movie nights in the cave, and a “rock”ing gift shop selling locally crafted gemstone jewelry and local rocks and minerals.
5. Cosmic Cavern
Located in Berryville, Cosmic Cavern is the largest privately owned show cave in Arkansas and features not one but two underground lakes! It’s also the warmest cave in the area with a constant temperature of 64 degrees. One of the bottomless lakes even has a flourishing population of trout.
The cave tour is 1 hour and 15 minutes of fun that includes some gorgeous rock formations, like a nine-foot soda straw, cave popcorn, and cave bacon. More adventurous travelers can also take the Wild Cave Tour with an advanced booking.
Berryville is conveniently located, with easy access to the funky historical art colony of Eureka Springs and Branson, Missouri. It would be very easy to create a fun family vacation in this area full of quirky art galleries, unique cafes, natural wonders, and glitzy shows.
Once you finish your caving adventure, explore the beautiful town of Eureka Springs on our “Whimsical Wander” scavenger hunt!
6. War Eagle Cavern
Situated east of Rogers, War Eagle Cavern is appealing to spelunkers and tourists alike. One-hour guided cave tours take place every 20 minutes throughout the day. This half-mile tour is suitable for all visitors and explores the history of the cave as a Native American homestead and later a hideout for outlaws. You’ll also see unique domes, underground streams, stunning formations, and possibly salamanders or bats.
After hours (and with advanced reservations), you can opt for a lantern tour and explore the cavern and its history in depth. There is also reportedly a Wild Cavern Tour that’s a three-hour excursion. It’s physically demanding with a lot of climbing and squeezing through tight spaces. This tour is not listed on their website, but it may be possible to book via email.
From there, sightseers can enjoy hiking the trails around Beaver Lake, panning for gems, visiting Moonshiners Mystery Shack, and checking out some local waterfalls! If you haven’t clued in yet, the Northwest Corner of Arkansas is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Dotted with waterfalls, laced with crystal clear rivers and towering bluffs, blessed with epic, Instagrammable viewpoints over plunging gorges, and traced with more hiking trails than you can count, the Ozarks are a must-visit site for adventurers.
7. Onyx Cave
Just a 15-minute drive from Eureka Springs, Onyx Cave has been open to the public since 1893! It’s the oldest show cave in Arkansas that’s still in operation. An entire fun park has been built around the cave, including gem mining, ax-throwing, and a smash lab.
Onyx offers self-guided tours with an optional audio guide. The cave is lovely but very small. You won’t spend more than 30 minutes to an hour exploring. Don’t worry, though—it’s still worth a trip. Eureka Springs is a completely quirky and fun historical town with a slough of art galleries, boutiques, and one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. There’s plenty here to explore!
Fun Fact: Onyx Cave was the filming location for a 1969 horror flick called It’s Alive. The movie centers around a monstrous dinosaur-like creature living in the cave.
8. Beckham Creek Cave Lodge
Beckham Creek is a totally different experience from any other cave on the list. It’s not a show cave in the way that you can tour it. It’s a show cave in the way that it’s one of the most luxurious and gorgeous homes you have ever laid eyes on. Yep, that’s right! Beckham Creek is a privately owned cavern that has been converted into a subterranean mansion, and you can rent it for your family vacation or reunion.
The home is nestled in a natural cavern high on a bluff, overlooking a forested valley. The luxury dwelling is 5,800 square feet of perfectly decorated caverns that sleeps 8-12 comfortably in its four bedrooms. It features a huge common area, a fully functioning kitchen, four bathrooms, and 256 acres of private property to explore. As you might imagine, the nightly price tag on this baby is pretty high, averaging around $2,200/night, with a two-night minimum. The home has been featured in Travel+Leisure, Forbes, The New York Times, and Southern Living.
9. Eden Falls Cave
Ponca is a very popular put-in for floating the Buffalo National River. However, it’s also the home of the Lost Valley Trail, a very popular day hike for families. The terrain is heavily forested, very beautiful, and dotted with small caves, waterfalls, and natural bridges to explore.
Follow Clark Creek for a little over a mile to its headwaters at Eden Falls Cave. The hike is fairly flat until the steep ascent to the cave at the end. The cave is small and not developed, but you’re free to venture in on your own, and you should! This one is not for the claustrophobic, though. You must crawl through about 200 feet of the cave before you reach the end, so watch your head, and bring a headlamp or flashlight. Once you reach the end, the cave opens up into a towering cavern with a 35-foot waterfall. Like most small creeks in Arkansas, Clark Creek and its waterfall will dry up in the heat of summer. You may want to explore this cave in the spring when there has been ample rain.
This cave offers no guided tour. There is no path, no lighting, and no fee. You don’t need special equipment to enter the cave, but gloves and kneepads sure don’t hurt, and a flashlight is a must!
10. Blowing Cave
Blowing Cave used to be a wild cave tour. It’s now under new ownership and offers open houses on Sundays. It seems like self-guided tours are by appointment. Since June 2023, the cave is temporarily closed as they tend to the return of a maternal bat colony. The cave suffered some abuse in the past, and campfires within the cavern had driven out all of the wildlife. The system is recovering under new management, which is great.
The cave is surrounded by weird and funny lore. It’s reportedly home to paranormal activity, aliens, and a secret cavern inhabited by “blue people.” Only 1.5 miles of the caves have been mapped by the Little Rock Grotto Club and can be explored. There is also an interior waterfall. A tour requires walking through some shallow water, and a headlamp and sturdy shoes are required. The road approaching the property is also very rough and requires a high-clearance vehicle.
To monitor the cave’s reopening, keep an eye on their Facebook page (website reportedly coming soon), or call 870-668-6254.
Wild Caves and Rock Shelters
That concludes the small list of developed caves in the state! The others are closed for indeterminate amounts of time due to renovation or animal protection. However, most of the state parks in Arkansas are loaded with rock shelters and small caves to explore. You can ask for a guided tour at the visitor center, or you can explore on your own. There are many caves and shelters in Petit Jean State Park, in Devil’s Den State Park, and surrounding the Buffalo National River. If you go exploring on your own, just be aware of private property, and follow caving safety. Don’t go alone, and let someone know where you’re caving and when you expect to be out.
Hopefully, you’re excited to go explore Northwest Arkansas now! These caves in Arkansas are just the tip of the fantastic outdoor adventures to enjoy in the area. Add a few of these amazing show caves to your itinerary, and then branch off to the hiking trails, and explore the wild caves and rock shelters of this beautiful, forested landscape. If you love history, the great outdoors, and a slower pace of life, you will not regret spending your next vacation exploring Northwest Arkansas!
Beckham Creek is not the only special accommodation in the Natural State! check out “The Most Unique Places to Stay in Arkansas” for more incredible options.
The most historic and fun city in Arkansas is Hot Springs. It boasts fantastic boutiques, horse racing, a great casino, historic hotels, iconic bathhouses, and the best food and bar scene in the state. Take a read through “The Best Things to Do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.”
Frequently Asked Questions
In recent years, many Arkansas caves have closed due to remodeling for safety, pandemic restrictions, and an outbreak of White Nose Syndrome among the local bat population.