Missouri, specifically the Ozark Mountain region, is known as the “Show Me State,” but is also called “Cave State” due to its abundance of explored caves, numbering around 7,500. The caves in Missouri are popular tourist attractions, beckoning visitors from far and wide. The appeal of these underground wonders is especially pronounced during the sweltering summers of Missouri, as they offer a refreshing retreat from the heat, thanks to their naturally cool temperatures. If you want to get to know the cave state’s many weird and wondrous caves consider exploring one of the caverns on this list.
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Scavenger hunts offer an exciting opportunity to venture out and discover the wonders of a city in a new way. Explore Missouri’s diverse offerings, ranging from sightseeing scavenger hunts to lively bar crawls and ghost tours. After a long morning exploring the caves, our hunts are the perfect afternoon adventures. Check out our full list of Missouri excursions!
17 Caves in Missouri Sure to Mesmerize You.
Exploring the caves in Missouri is an exhilarating and educational experience that offers a glimpse into the state’s geological wonders. Missouri is renowned for its extensive cave systems, with more than 7,500 caves dotting the landscape. Stepping into these subterranean realms transports you to a different world, where stunning stalactites and stalagmites hang from the ceilings and rise from the cave floor, creating a beautiful spectacle and a fun obstacle course. While touring the caves, knowledgeable guides provide insightful commentary about the geological formations, historical significance, and ecological diversity found within these natural wonders. Here are some of the most popular Missouri caves to add to your itinerary!
1. Meramec Caverns, Sullivan
Meramec Caverns, situated close to St. Louis, in the Ozark Mountains, is known as one of the largest cave formations in the world. This cavern has served as a sanctuary for Native Americans for centuries, and later became a site for French colonial miners to extract valuable minerals. During the Civil War, the cave’s deposits were utilized for the production of gunpowder, and the infamous outlaw Jesse James utilized the cave as a hideout for his gang in the 1870s.
Within Meramec Caverns, there exist some truly fascinating formations. One such formation is the Stage Curtain, at 70 feet tall presents a stunning sight. The Underground River adds to the allure of the caverns. There’s an ancient limestone “Wine Table” that has formed naturally over time. The entire cave complex stretches high above the height of a seven-story building! You can take a guided cave tour of Meramec Caverns with knowledgeable rangers. These tours provide well-lit walkways, ensuring a safe and informative exploration of the caves’ remarkable features.
2. Jacob’s Cave, Versailles
Jacob’s Cave, nestled in the scenic Lake of the Ozarks State Park, proudly holds the title of the most picturesque cave in the area. Be amazed by the incredible depth illusion, reflective pools, intricate ceiling sponge work, and prehistoric bones from mastodons, bears, and peccaries. Jacob’s Cave is also home to the world’s largest geode, a rock cavity lined with crystals!
Go on the mile-long tour. You’ll be treated to a spectacle of every imaginable cave formation. Witness the beauty of millions of delicate “soda straws,” gigantic stalactites, columns that seem to defy gravity, and delicate helictites. You’ll also discover evidence of six ice ages and three earthquakes etched into the cave’s history. Don’t worry about breaking a sweat inside the cave because the temperature remains a cool and constant 53 degrees year-round.
3. Mark Twain Cave, Hannibal
If you find yourself about a mile away from Hannibal on Highway 79, step into history at Mark Twain Cave—the oldest show cave in Missouri! Believe it or not, the first guided tour of this cave took place way back in 1886. It’s been captivating visitors ever since. Before you begin your adventure, there is a seven-minute video that delves into the cave’s formation and its connection to the famous writings of Mark Twain himself. Yep, this cave actually inspired some of his work! Touring this cave is like stepping into the pages of a literary masterpiece. Led by experienced guides, the tour of Mark Twain Cave takes you on a delightful 60-minute stroll along smooth and flat walkways. These guides know all the hidden secrets and stories.
If you’re up for an even more rugged experience, you can join the tour of Cameron Cave. Grab a lantern or flashlight and let your imagination run wild as you step into the shoes of the cave explorers from 1925. There’s an awesome kids’ attraction called Sticks, Stones, and Bones waiting for the young explorers. They can dig for fossils and pan for semi-precious stones, adding a touch of excitement and education to their adventure.
Once you’ve finished your cave exploration, go on our “Hannibal‘s Huckleberry Hunt.” Stroll through the picturesque downtown neighborhood and immerse yourself in the history, architecture, and lore that put this place on the map.
4. Bluff Dweller’s Cave, Noel
Bluff Dweller’s Cave, situated in the Ozark Mountains near Noel, holds great archaeological significance. It dates back to the Paleozoic Era when the St. Joe Limestone experienced water flow through its cracks, giving rise to this unique cave formation. Approximately 12,000 years ago, the cave served as a dwelling for Archaic-age Native Americans, known as the Bluff Dwellers. Since 1927 the cave has been open for public tours.
Inside the cave, marvel at captivating speleothems, which are formations created by mineral deposits over time. These include lily pads, cave corals, and popcorn-like structures. The Rimstone Dam stretches nearly 75 feet long and showcases a unique display of mineral deposits. Over the course of thousands of years, this dam formed naturally, showcasing the remarkable power of geological processes in shaping our environment.
The Musical Chimes are an extremely popular attraction at Bluff Dwellers Cave, loved by all for their unique characteristics. These chimes are special cave formations known as draperies, which are thin and delicate enough for light to pass through them. When a knowledgeable tour guide taps on these draperies, they produce a reverberating sound similar to a drum. Many of the tour guides possess exceptional musical talent and are able to create beautiful melodies when playing the chimes, filling the chamber with harmonious sound. The Ten Ton Balanced Rock is a remarkable feature that consists of a massive rock that balances precariously on two pivots, defying gravity and creating a sense of awe.
Bluff Dweller’s Cave is not only a geological wonder but also a habitat for a few animal species. Among them are the albino cave crayfish, the grotto salamander, and the eastern pipistrelle bat. These creatures have adapted to thrive in the unique cave environment.
5. Smallin Civil War Cave, Ozark
Journey into the depths of Smallin Cave, the very first documented cave in the Ozarks! Not only will you be mesmerized by the cave’s breathtaking natural beauty, but you’ll also have the opportunity to dive deep into Missouri’s rich history, folklore, and geology. It’s like stepping into a time capsule filled with wonders!
The cave entrance stands an impressive 55 feet tall and spans a whopping 100 feet wide. It’s a gateway to a hidden world just waiting to be explored. The hour-long tours are designed to ensure everyone can enjoy the wonders of Smallin Cave. The pathways are wheelchair and stroller friendly, made of sturdy concrete. These paths boast gentle inclines, handy handrails, and ramps to make your exploration as smooth as possible.
If you want a more adventurous experience go on one an off-trail wild cave tour. A two-hour underground adventure, venturing off the beaten path into the mysterious depths of the cave. As you venture into the unknown, you’ll traverse through at least two feet of water, so dress accordingly and make sure to wear lace-up shoes that can handle the wet terrain.
6. Graham Cave, Graham Cave State Park, Danville
Graham Cave is a vast, underground marvel spanning an impressive 386 acres. This magnificent cave system is composed of sturdy sandstone, so its mere existence is a testament to the power of nature’s geological forces. Graham Cave holds a deep connection to our ancient past. You’ll discover a treasure trove of prehistoric artifacts, remnants of a time long ago, that offer glimpses into the lives of ancient Native Americans who once called this cave their home over 10,000 years ago.
The grand opening reveals a passage that stretches an astonishing 60 feet high and spans an impressive 120 feet wide. Stepping further into the cave, a rocky cavern reveals itself, stretching approximately 100 feet in length. The rough-hewn walls, adorned with the marks of time, are where you witness the eons of geological transformation that have shaped this incredible space.
7. Onondaga Cave, Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg
Onondaga Cave State Park, is a picturesque destination nestled along the scenic Meramec River, just a short distance from the charming village of Leasburg. The word “Onondaga” is an Iroquois word meaning “people of the mountain.” Established in 1982, this park holds a special distinction as a National Natural Landmark, an honor bestowed upon it because of its remarkable natural beauty. Gasconade dolomite makes up the Onondaga Cave roof. Some of the lower parts of the cave are in Eminence dolomite, which is up to 550 million years old.
Guided walking tours lead visitors along well-lit, paved walkways that stretch over a mile. Knowledgeable guides will accompany you, sharing fascinating insights into the cave’s geological wonders like the Twins, the King’s Canopy, enchanting stalactites, massive stalagmites, and active flowstones that seem to come to life before your eyes. There’s even a slow-flowing river that meanders through the cave.
Beyond the cave, the park offers several fun attractions. Take a moment to explore the Vilander Bluff Natural Area, where you’ll be treated to a magnificent view of the Meramec River. If you’re up for some outdoor fun, head to the Meramec River itself, where fishing, kayaking, and canoeing opportunities await.
8. Marvel Cave, Branson
Marvel Cave, is nestled near the lively city of Branson, Missouri, atop the Roark Mountain, in Stone County. The cave is part of the Silver Dollar City theme park. It’s believed to have the largest cave entrance in the entire country and is counted among the largest worldwide. Cathedral Room, the grand entrance that stands a staggering 204 feet high, 225 feet wide, and 411 feet long.
To begin your subterranean journey, you’ll enter the cave through an overhead opening and descend down a winding stairway that takes you 94 feet below the surface. Marvel Cave holds the title of the deepest cave in all of Missouri, reaching an astounding depth of 505 feet.
The most popular tour choice is the guided Traditional Cave Tour. You’ll have to conquer around 600 stairs, descending a whopping 500 feet below the surface. Don’t worry about the climb back up—once you’ve finished your underground exploration, a cable car awaits to whisk you back to the surface.
For those seeking a truly unique experience, the Lantern Cave Tour is just the ticket. You’ll be provided with lanterns to light your way as you venture through parts of the cave that are not usually visited by other tours.
9. Bridal Cave, Camdenton
The enchanting Bridal Cave is located beneath Thunder Mountain near the Lake of the Ozarks, just outside the lovely town of Camdenton. The beauty of Bridal Cave has become a sought-after destination for couples seeking a truly romantic wedding experience. Legend has it that centuries ago, a native couple exchanged their vows in this very cave, igniting a tale that has captured the hearts of many and spawned countless subsequent marriage ceremonies at the site.
Stepping into Bridal Cave, you’ll find yourself in one of the most stunning caves this country has to offer. You’ll be awestruck by the grandeur of giant columns, gracefully hanging stalactites, rising stalagmites, and even a mystical Mystery Lake. The cave is like an underground wonderland, boasting an array of remarkable geological formations that will leave you breathless.
10. Devil’s Well, Salem
Devil’s Well is a peculiar “karst window” that grants teases us with a peak into the depths of our earth’s mysterious interior. A colossal cavern with a collapsed roof results in a massive sinkhole that unveils an extraordinary underground lake. A “spiral staircase” has been built for you to get a great view. There is no admission fee for Devil’s Well and the area is open daily, during daylight hours. Located near Akers, right off Route KK, the road leading to this magnificent wonder is steep and rough, so be prepared for a wild ride.
Outside the cave, a fantastic 4.6-mile trail awaits. Follow it from Devil’s Well to Cave Spring, and as you wander, keep your eyes peeled for the stream emerging from Devil’s Well, a reminder of the incredible journey it takes beneath the surface.
11. Onyx Cave, Newburg
At Onyx Cave you’ll witness even more unusual stone formations. The main attractions are Waterfall Wall, Drippy Room, and Big Column, as well as the cave coral, which has a gorgeous texture that resembles ocean coral and can be found in abundance throughout the cave.
Explore the unique natural marvel known as “cave bacon.” This bacon is short on taste, but big on beauty. It occurs when water trickles down the cave walls, depositing minerals along the way, to form layers of vertical formations that look like strips of bacon. These layers can display a range of colors, influenced by the impurities present in the water.
12. Fantastic Caverns, Springfield
Go on a grand adventure and journey into Fantastic Caverns, a sprawling cave system near Springfield, Missouri. This awe-inspiring wonder was first stumbled upon by an Ozarks farmer way back in 1862.
Fun fact: Five years later, a group of adventurous female explorers boldly ventured into its depths, marking the first official exploration of the cave system.
To protect the cave, tours are given by jeep-drawn trams which follow a designated path. This allows the rest of the cave to remain natural instead of the massive excavation and destruction that would occur to build safe walking paths. It also allows us to enjoy the journey in absolute comfort. As the tram glides through the caverns be amazed by the colossal formations that surround you. You’ll see stalactites, stalagmites, delicate “soda straws,” glistening cave “pearls,” breathtaking flowstones, and colossal columns. It’s like stepping into another world, where nature’s artistic touch reigns supreme!
13. Crystal Cave, Springfield
Just a short 40-minute drive north of Branson, the beautiful Crystal Cave is a place where prehistoric humans likely roamed the region between 8,000 and 1,000 B.C. Today, you can take a guided tour and journey through this underground marvel, just as the first Americans did. With your tour guide leading the way, you will discover a series of remarkable rooms that will leave you in awe.
You’ll explore The Ghost Room, where you’ll encounter 13 pure white stalagmites standing tall at over 2 feet. In the Rocky Mountain Chamber, you’ll find the famous Washington Monument formation—a natural masterpiece that has been replicated by curators from the prestigious Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. The Concert Hall is a vast chamber, measuring over 100 feet in length, where you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of delicate soda straw stalactites, creating a mesmerizing sight that resembles a natural symphony hall. In the Chimes Room, you’ll be treated to a natural dome ceiling adorned with stalactites that produce a melodic tone when gently struck.
As the tour proceeds, your guide will unveil even more wonders, such as Loyd’s Room, The Cathedral Chamber, Rainbow Falls, Witches Bathtub, Jacob’s Room, the Helictite Room, and countless other captivating chambers. Each room offers a unique glimpse into the beauty and mysteries of Crystal Cave.
14. Ozark Caverns, Lake of the Ozarks
Within the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the captivating world of Ozark Caverns. In the depths of Ozark Caverns, you’ll be greeted by the epic sight of “Angel Showers.” A perpetual water shower that gracefully trickles from the high rock above, creating a truly magical spectacle. Keep an eye out for a wall of clay that is stamped with clear bear claw marks dating back centuries. Ozark Caverns is also home to a variety of fascinating inhabitants, including salamanders, four species of bats, and an impressive 16 species of invertebrates.
Just outside the cave, you’ll find an information center and museum. Here, you can delve deeper into the world of Missouri caves and parks, discovering artifacts found in and around the caves and soaking up valuable cave trivia knowledge. It’s the perfect way to enhance your experience and gain a deeper understanding of the natural wonders surrounding you.
15. Fisher Cave, Sullivan
Be enchanted by the natural splendor of Meramec State Park, a breathtaking oasis located near Sullivan, Missouri. Nestled along the picturesque Meramec River, this lush green haven is a true paradise, surrounded by majestic forests, towering bluffs, and mysterious caves. It’s a place where adventure and tranquility intertwine.
Within Meramec Park, you’ll find over 40 captivating caves, each holding its own secrets and wonders. Among them, Fisher Cave steals the spotlight. Venture into its low and narrow passages, where babbling streams guide you to massive underground rooms adorned with calcite deposits. Look out for helictites, intricate formations that defy gravity, and marvel at the towering 30-foot columns that stretch towards the cave ceiling. These caves are also home to a diverse array of wildlife, adding a touch of magic to your underground exploration. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might even spot bear claw marks etched into the cave walls, a reminder of the creatures that once called this place their home.
16. Saltpeter Cave, Ste. Genevieve
The natural Saltpeter Cave is a completely different experience that the other caverns on the list. It’s located directly underneath a winery & tasting room. Once you have decided on one of the award-winning Missouri wines, you can picnic inside the cave. The cave entrance is approximately 100 feet across and 35 feet tall. While most caves maintain a constant temperature, because of the large opening, it changes with the weather. In the late 1700s, Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate) was mined by a Frenchman here and then shipped down the river to New Orleans, where it was used to make gunpowder. Today, the cave is mostly used by picnickers & wine lovers, enjoying the sounds of the river nearby and a hearty glass of MO wine.
Explore the city of Ste. Genevieve on our “Ste. Genevieve‘s Giddy-up Galore Hunt” a fun-filled journey through the Downtown neighborhood.
17. Stark Caverns, Eldon
Stark Caverns is possibly one of the most interesting on the list. It contains several shimmering pools of water all flowing into one another, so expect to cross long stretches of boardwalk on your visit. The cave is accessible to wheelchairs, open year-round, and mildly temperate at a consistent 57 degrees.
Besides the pools, notable features include large columns in the walls and otherworldly “soda straw” formations, and a variety of tubular stalactites. These form when water drips slowly through cracks in rocks, such as those found on the roof of a cave.
Stark Caverns has a history with Native Americans who were the first to call it home, leaving behind terra cotta pottery from the Late Woodland Period, when agricultural technology was becoming more advanced. The cave has led many lives ranging from a resting area for cattle, a speakeasy, a trout farm, and a roller-skating rink.
Exploring caves in Missouri is a truly unforgettable experience for nature lovers. These natural wonders transport us into the depths to explore the once-hidden beauty of our subterranean planet. Venturing into these caves allows us to witness the intricate formations of stalactites and stalagmites, admire the play of light and color, and immerse ourselves in the secrets of the deep. We hope you found a cave here to add to your list, but if not, remember there are still almost 7,500 more to peruse!
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Frequently Asked Questions
The Meramec Caverns are the most well-known cave in Missouri, drawing in upwards of 150,000 visitors annually.