The entrance of Sitton’s Cave at Cloudland Canyon. (Photo: Bob Butters)

If groundhogs emerging from their burrows recently in search of their shadows has you thinking of underground adventures, you should know that winter is actually a good time to explore some of the many caves in the Chattanooga area.

Cave temperatures stay a constant 55–60 degrees year-round in this region, which is typically warmer than the aboveground outdoors this time of year.

However, remember that wild caves are fragile and dangerous.

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They require specialized equipment and the know-how to access them. The inexperienced should not enter any cave without proper equipment and guidance because cave ecosystems are extremely fragile. Beginner blunders can quickly become dangerous, life-threatening emergencies. It is strongly recommended to use an established guide service for caving.

That being said, here are several caves that Outdoor Chattanooga staff recommend exploring.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns
This is the closest commercial cave to downtown Chattanooga. The caverns are open year-round, and there are two types of tours: walking and wild, depending on your physical ability and preferred level of adventure. Walking tours are offered daily with no reservations. Wild tours require advance reservations.

G3 Adventure Tours
This company offers explorations to either Sitton’s Cave or Pigeon Mountain Cave. The wild cave tours range from one to four hours in length and vary in difficulty and distance covered. The tours are appropriate for beginners, but the caves are truly wild—no lights, walkways or handrails—so be ready for adventure and to get dirty. Pigeon Mountain Cave tours are offered year-round. Sitton’s Cave tours are select months of the year. All tours meet at Cloudland Canyon State Park and require advance reservation. Transportation, equipment and guides are provided with the tour fee.

Cumberland Caverns
With 32 miles of caves and underground passageways, there’s plenty of fun and adventure for everyone at Cumberland Caverns. They offer daily walking tours and adventure trips, overnight adventure trips, and underground concerts.

The Lost Sea
It’s open year-round except Thanksgiving and Christmas and offers tours that last an hour and 15 minutes. The tour includes an underground boat ride on America’s largest underground lake.

Special underground event
Go underground to explore The Trail Beneath the Trail with the Lookout Mountain Conservancy and the Rotaract Club of Chattanooga March 1. You’ll be supporting The Howard School internship program while exploring the cavern at Ruby Falls and enjoying food, fun, drinks and music. The cost is $40 per person.

To learn more about wild cave exploration in the Chattanooga area, visit the websites of the National Speleological Society or the Southeastern Cave Conservancy.

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