Summer is the ideal time to explore the cracks and crevices in Texas Hill Country’s cool, dark caverns. So if you’re looking to avoid the Texas heat, but still enjoy the outdoors, consider touring one of the numerous caves across the Austin area.
These five caves take the lead among the rest and generally only take an hour or two to explore; one even offers performances in its underground music room. With year-round temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s, you might even want to bring a light sweater for your tour. If a drop finds its way on your shoulder don’t worry, cave kisses are good luck.
If touring the biggest cave in Texas is your goal, head to Natural Bridge Caverns with its 60-foot limestone slab that forms a natural bridge. Four students from a nearby college discovered this cave in 1960, but the findings here are ongoing as cave explorers continue deeper into the cave. The Hidden Passage Tour is the tour for the newest cave additions. During the early summer, visitors can see the caverns along with nearby Bracken Bat Cave’s 15 million bats emerge with a special, limited-availability combination ticket.
Slicing through the center of Texas, Interstate 35 roars across the U.S. from Mexico to Canada. Though back in 1963, the core drilling team had its six-inch bit poring through 40 feet of solid limestone when it suddenly dropped over two feet. Soon after, the first group of spelunkers used the narrow core hole, a car bumper, and a wooden tripod to explore the cave. Today’s visitors simply walk down a paved incline to see the soaring cathedral rooms and rock formations. For the adventurous, the Wild Cave Tour takes cave enthusiasts on a guided, three-hour trek that requires crawling, climbing, and protective gear (provided by Inner Space Caverns).
Mark Beaver discovered this cave while drilling for a water well along Purgatory Creek in the 1890s and he deemed it the ideal place for distilling booze and a bit of gambling. But at the turn of the century, the cave was sold off. The new owners developed it and soon after people lined up with a dime a piece for a candle and guided tour starting in 1903. Known as a dry cave, Wonder World Cave formed as a result of an earthquake (not water erosion as in other Texas caves). Visitors can still see the Balcones Fault Line on the ceiling of the cave and learn about the effects of earthquakes in Central Texas.
Welcome to the National Cave of Texas, which is also a Texas State Park. Guano from this cave system was actually used to manufacture gunpowder during the Civil War. In the Roaring Twenties, a band moved in to establish a dance club in the cave’s main space.
After the partying died down during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the state park headquarters and observation tower above to mimic the National Park Service’s rustic, parkitecture style. Now visitors on the walking tour can see how an underground river formed the cave while exploring the gunpowder room and ballroom. A Wild Cave Tour (gear provided) is also available.
Some caves are rumored to be haunted, though it might just be the acoustics. With a room large enough for a seated audience, the Cave Without a Name hosts several live music performances throughout the year in the Queen’s Throne Room. Discovery of the cave is credited to a mischievous goat falling into it in 1927. When the land owners at the time looked to the public to name the cave, a local said it was “too pretty to have a name,” and in 1939, the Cave Without a Name officially opened for tours. In addition to stalactites and stalagmites, cave enthusiasts can feast their eyes on soda straws, cave drapery, and flowstone during the tour.