The Missouri landscape is dotted with 7,300 documented caves, and more are being discovered. It’s no wonder Missouri is known as “The Cave State.” Caves are particularly popular during hot Missouri summers because their cool temperatures are maintained year round. Most Missouri caves are explored on foot, but some, like Fantastic Caverns, have Jeep-pulled trolleys.
Here are some of the most popular Missouri caves. Check the caves’ websites to verify current opening times, search available tours, and find contact information.
1. Fantastic Caverns
Fantastic Caverns, just north of Springfield, Missouri, is unlike other Missouri caves. Here, you climb aboard a propane-powered, Jeep-drawn tram to roll through the caverns. No stairs, head-bonking ceilings, or crazy climbs; it’s effortless!
Fantastic Caverns lies beneath the rolling Ozarks hills. During the 55-minute, all-riding cave tour, you’ll get an up-close look at giant columns stretching from floor to ceiling, delicate soda straws glowing with minerals, tiny cave pearls hidden in crystal-clear water, flowstones, and drapery formations.
Since the temperature inside the caverns stays about 60 degrees year round, Fantastic Caverns is an all-weather attraction. It’s open 362 days a year (closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day).
2. Marvel Cave At Silver Dollar City
Thinking of visiting Silver Dollar City? A tour of Marvel Cave, a National Natural Landmark, is included in your admission price (a freebie of sorts). This cave, which opened for tours in 1894, lies below the theme park. One of the deepest caves in Missouri, Marvel Cave has one of the largest subterranean entry rooms in the United States. The strenuous, hour-long tour includes nearly 600 stair steps.
Marvel Cave is a wet limestone cave complete with formations that are still alive and growing. First, you’ll travel 300 feet below the surface and enter the beautiful Cathedral Room, which is the largest cave entrance room in the United States. Because the tour is strenuous, it is not recommended for visitors with heart or lung conditions, bad backs, weak knees, or weak ankles.
After descending nearly 500 feet below the surface, you’ll need to get back up to daylight. Not to worry! In 1957, a cable train was installed to take visitors up the half-mile, 1,070-foot climb back to the surface.
3. Smallin Civil War Cave
Smallin Cave is the first documented cave in the Ozarks, and it holds a wealth of Missouri history. You’ll enjoy the cave’s natural beauty as well as its history, folklore, and geology.
The cave entrance is a jaw-dropping 55 feet tall and 100 feet wide. Hour-long tours travel a half-mile on pathways that are wheelchair and stroller friendly. These concrete pathways have gentle inclines, handrails, and ramps. There are no stairs. Strollers, wheelchairs, and mobility scooters are welcome!
4. Mark Twain Cave Complex
Mark Twain Cave, a national natural landmark located near Hannibal, Missouri, was first opened for tours in 1886. It is one of just a few labyrinth-style caves in the world, where 260 passageways form crisscross patterns. The long-sought signature of a young Sam Clemens was discovered in Mark Twain Cave on July 26, 2019, during the cave’s bicentennial year.
The cave has no stairs, but good walking shoes are recommended for the hour-long tour, which is not wheelchair accessible. This cave is great for a visit during a hot summer day as it is 52 degrees year round.
5. Bridal Cave
See giant columns, delicate “soda straws,” and massive drapery formations during a 1-hour tour of Bridal Cave. Located at the Lake of the Ozarks, near Camdenton, the cave has more onyx formations than any other known cave. Thousands of couples have been married in the stalactite-adorned Bridal Chapel.
Bridal Cave constantly remains 60 degrees inside, so it’s a great activity no matter what the weather. Guided tours leave every few minutes and last approximately 1 hour. Tours, on concrete pathways, are led by park interpreters.
6. Crystal Cave
Crystal Cave, just 40 minutes north of Branson, Missouri, was probably first seen by prehistoric humans who lived in the region between 8,000 and 1,000 B.C. Tours typically run 80 minutes in the morning.
You’ll see impressive stalagmites and stalactites in the area known as The Cathedral. At Rainbow Falls, you’ll enjoy the multicolored flowstone formations. You’ll also view ancient Native American carvings and symbols. The Concert Hall is more than 100 feet long; it features hundreds of soda straw stalactites. In the Chimes Room, with its natural dome ceiling, some of the stalactites will produce a musical tone when gently struck. The Ghost Room features 13 pure white stalagmites that are more than 2 feet tall.
Crystal Cave first opened to the public as a commercial show cave in 1893. You’ll enter this spectacular cave through the old iron gates of the original Springfield jail and walk into the cool underworld. The temperature inside the cave is a constant 59 degrees.
7. Onondaga Cave
Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg
Onondaga Cave is one of America’s most spectacular, with 1.5 miles of passages decorated with fantastical deposits like the Twins, the King’s Canopy, the Rock of Ages, the Big Room, and the delicate Lily Pad Room.
Trained guides lead you over electrically-lighted, paved walkways, providing information about the cave’s geologic wonders. With an interesting history and a river flowing through it, Onondaga Cave is a spectacular National Natural Landmark.
Onondaga Cave tours leave from the visitor center. They are walking tours almost a mile long, and they last about an hour and 15 minutes. The cave’s temperature is 57 degrees year round, so bring a jacket and comfortable shoes.
8. Cathedral Cave
Onondaga Cave State Park
This is a lantern tour that lasts approximately 2 hours. The Cathedral Cave tour begins at the campground shower house and includes a 0.3-mile walk up Deer Run Trail to the cave’s entrance. The cave tour itself lasts about an hour and 30 minutes. The remaining time is spent traveling on the trail to and from the cave entrance. The cave temperature is 57 degrees, and the tour is limited to the first 30 people.
9. Meramec Caverns
Meramec State Park, Sullivan
Reputed to have been used as Jesse James’s hideout, Meramec Caverns is home to some of the largest and rarest formations in the world. The entire cave complex stretches upwards past the height of a seven-story building.
The cavern is Missouri’s largest “show cave” and one of the oldest attractions on Route 66. Tours are 1.25 miles long and take about an hour and 20 minutes. They traverse well-lighted walkways and are conducted by trained rangers. Tours depart every 20–30 minutes starting at 9 a.m. Strollers are not permitted.
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