Tuckaleechee Caverns is the most popular and (likely) most majestic of Tennessee’s 10,000 known caves. The underground passageway is easy to navigate, yet it affords majestic views that rival those of the country’s most famous cave systems.
The Tuckaleechee Caverns were formed between 20 and 30 million years ago, although the present passageway wasn’t fully discovered until 1954. The passage is now easy to navigate and comprises a 1.25-mile underground path. While the caverns afford sights at every step and around every corner, a couple of favorites stand out.
At one end of the passageway lies the Big Room, an expansive open space that’s nearly large enough to fit a football stadium. The room measures 400 feet long, 300 feet wide, and 150 feet tall, making it even taller than the highest rooms at nearby Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave (which have a maximum height of around 120 feet).
The other half of the passageway features Silver Falls, which is a 210-foot underground double waterfall. The falls dwarf even Niagara Falls (which is 167 feet tall), and they’re so high that only the lower portion is visible from the path. The water disappears from view at the upper heights, giving the allusion that it’s falling from an infinitely high space.
These signs can be viewed via guided tour most of the year, although the caverns do close for much of the winter (when cold temperatures can make the pathway precarious). Tour prices are $22 + tax for adults, $10 + tax for children ages 5 to 11, and free for children four and under, making this an affordable attraction for families to see.
In addition to the caves themselves, Tuckaleechee Caverns is also the world’s most sensitive seismic station site. SeismicTKL was developed before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it continues to be actively monitored today. The station’s purpose is to watch around the world for signs of potential nuclear explosions, and cavern goers are welcome to see how the station monitors seismic activity.
As much as the Smoky Mountains offer above ground, even more lie below ground. Whether you’re an experienced spelunker or have never stepped foot into a cave, Tuckaleechee Caverns offers ease and majesty that everyone will enjoy. Take a tour, and gain a new appreciation for just how remarkable these mountains are.
-While the passageway is easy to navigate, it is an underground passageway that goes by water. There are wet and muddy sections on the path, and you’ll want to choose footwear accordingly. Sneakers are suitable, but boots are even better.
-Many tour guides generally enjoy the outdoors, and they often have extensive knowledge of the area. Don’t be afraid to ask them about recommendations for hiking trails or other outdoor activities in the area.