Arkansas is a paradise for outdoor adventurers. Fishermen, hunters, hikers, and water babies flock to the state for excursions on the hundreds of hiking trails, lakes, and rivers. However, if you’d like to spend your hot summer days in a little cooler environment, Arkansas also boasts a stunning array of caves and caverns. The caverns in Arkansas range from elaborate cave hotels like Beckham Creek, where you and your family can spend a luxury holiday, to the showpiece Cathedral Room at Blanchard Springs, and rugged experiences like the wild cave tour in Blowing Cave.

The most popular caves in the state are show caves like Blanchard Spring Caverns which include vast cathedral chambers, guided walking tours, visitor centers, and wheelchair accessibility, making it possible for everyone to enjoy these natural wonders. As always, here at Arkansas Frontier, we’ll highlight some educational opportunities too as we explore Arkansas’ underground beauty. Let’s find the perfect Arkansas caving adventure for your family!

The 10 Must-See Caverns in Arkansas for an Educational Adventure

Cave opening with light pouring in and children playing at one of the caverns in Arkansas

Exploring Arkansas caves will give you the opportunity to highlight some of our Native American history and culture. The Arkansas Archeological Survey has some wonderful educational material on Arkansas bluff shelters and artifacts for you to peruse before your trip.

Ranger-guided tours and informational placards in the caves highlight reptilian, mammalian, and bacterial life that call the caves home. Take some time to learn about the power of water and the calcification process responsible for the dazzling geological formations you see. Furthermore, many of the caverns are located in areas of cultural importance for Arkansas and provide opportunities to survey a traditional way of life!

Now that you know what to look for, here are the best caves in Arkansas in no particular order. Pick one or explore a few this summer!

1. Blanchard Springs Caverns

Blanchard Springs Caverns, located near the North Central Arkansas town of Mountain View, has now claimed the title of Arkansas’s most popular cave following the closure of Devil’s Den due to a bat fungus. It’s for good reason too. Blanchard Springs is gorgeous! With over eight miles of explored passages, it ranks as the second-longest cave in Arkansas and holds the title for the largest by volume.

Formed millions of years ago when the entire area was submerged under the sea, this limestone cave is now a habitat for various creatures such as salamanders, mosses, spot frogs, and of course, tourists. Its well-lit trails make exploring the continuously growing rock formations of this “living cave” a beginner-friendly experience.

The Trails

Dripstone Trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible, as are the visitor center facilities. It remains open year-round and takes you through the first level of this tri-level cave system. During the ranger-guided tour of Dripstone Trail, you’ll explore the two primary rooms situated on the upper level of the cavern system—the Cathedral Room which can hold three football fields! You’ll encounter impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straws. In the Coral Room, you’ll encounter numerous snow-white formations composed of pure calcite, also known as calcium carbonate.

For those seeking a longer adventure, check out the Discovery Trail, but be prepared to tackle nearly 700 stairs. A guided walking tour is offered year-round, allowing families to marvel at the beauty of the “living cave” and learn about its geological wonders.

Additionally, Blanchard offers a Wild Cave Tour, where the brave caverns visitor can gear up with special equipment and navigate through undeveloped sections of the cave, crawling and climbing along the way. (At the time of writing, this tour is temporarily suspended.)

Educational Opportunity:

Aside from the geological, historical, and zoological info you’ll get from the placards and guides at Blanchard Springs CavernWhile exploring the wonders of Blanchard Springs Caverns, a visit to the nearby Ozark Folk Center is a delightful learning experience in the area. Located within easy reach, the Ozark Folk Center offers a captivating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region. Here you can see traditional craftsmen at work on pottery and blacksmithing, as well as catch live folk music shows!

Make a weekend of it by visiting nearby Mirror Lake for some excellent rainbow trout fishing. Take the trail to the Mirror Lake Waterfall for a beautiful view. There are also camping sites, picnic areas, hiking trails, and creek swimming holes that are perfect for the whole family.

Visiting the Cave

Blanchard Springs is open from 09:30-6:00 Mondays-Thursdays. Prices vary by tour, size of group, and time of year ranging from $15 for an adult on the Discovery Trail to $85 for the Wild Cave Tour.

2. Mystic Caverns

Mystic Caverns is nestled in Northwest Arkansas, between the towns of Jasper and Harrison. Once a beloved destination for families exploring the now-closed Dogpatch USA amusement park, Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome have been off-limits since November 2021 without any official explanation. While rumors swirl that a higher-up from Bass Pro Shop may have acquired both the caves and Dogpatch in 2021, there’s no confirmation of it reopening yet. I include it on the list because I’m hopeful!

Mystic Caverns remains a captivating sight to behold, boasting a magnificent 30-foot tall “Pipe Organ” calcite formation, a standout amongst its many formations. The nearby Crystal Dome rises to a height of 70 feet at its peak and is adorned with glittering white geologic formations. Hopefully, the rumors are true and it will reopen soon!

3. Onyx Cave

Onyx Cave is the oldest operational show cave in Arkansas, dazzling visitors since 1893! Located just six miles from the adorable town of Eureka Springs, the Onxy Cave system is a full day of adventure. Surrounding the cave is a fun park offering activities like gem panning, ax-throwing, and a smash lab.

Visitors to Onyx can enjoy a self-guided walking tour of this underground world with the option of an audio guide. The cave itself is relatively small. Exploration typically takes no more than 30 minutes to an hour, but you can spend as long as you like.

Eureka Springs, known for its quirky charm and rich history, offers a plethora of attractions including art galleries, boutiques, and one of the most famously haunted hotels in the United States.

Fascinating Fact: The 1969 horror movie, It’s Alive, was filmed in Onyx Cave. Beware! The monster may still be in there.

Visiting the Cave

Onyx Cave is open seven days a week from March 1-November 26. Adult tickets are $14.75, children (4-13)- $9.75, and children under three are free.

4. Eden Falls Cave

In Ponca, a popular starting point for floating the Buffalo National River, you’ll find the Lost Valley Trail, a favorite among families for day hikes. The trail winds through heavily forested terrain, offering stunning views and opportunities to explore natural bridges of fallen oaks, rock shelters used by ancient Native Americans, and waterfalls.

The Trail

From the parking lot, you’ll follow a fairly obvious path down Clark Creek, exploring rock formations and small caves along the way. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp. Towards the end of the trail, you’ll hike up a steeper section to the entrance to Eden Falls Cave. The hike is mostly flat until the cave’s entrance. Unlike the show caves, you’ll need proper tennis shoes or hiking sandals for this one.

While the cave itself is undeveloped and small, visitors are welcome to explore it on their own. However, it’s not suitable for those who are claustrophobic! You’ll need to crawl about 200 feet into the cave before reaching the end. Watch your head and bring a headlamp or flashlight. Crawling through the tight space might sound intimidating to some, but when my family went, my father (a toweringly large man) and my six and eight-year-old niece and nephew did it with ease.

The reward for your crawling is a majestic 35-foot waterfall within a soaring vertical cavern. It’s a pretty magical experience honestly, and not one that a ton of people see. (They don’t make it past the belly crawl.) It’s best to visit in spring when there’s been plenty of rain, as the creek and waterfall tend to dry up during the hot summer months.

There are no guided tours, paths, or lighting in the cave, and no entrance fee is required. While special equipment isn’t necessary, gloves, kneepads, and a flashlight are recommended for a more comfortable and safe exploration experience.

5. Bull Shoals Caverns

Most locals head to Bull Shoals for fishing on the White River or enjoying water activities on the picturesque Bull Shoals Lake. But hidden amidst the beauty of the Ozark Mountains lies a remarkable cave.

Bull Shoals Cavern is believed to be one of the oldest limestone caves globally. It may not be expansive, but it holds some fun surprises. It’s home to almost every known geological formation present in the United States, making it the perfect place to study rock formations. The cave showcases everything from box work to graptolites and cave pearls. Plus, deep within its chambers, an underground stream and waterfall add some extra sparkle! Evidence suggests that Native Americans occupied the cave over 10,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until 1958 that it opened to the public.

The Trail

Guided tours, lasting about 45 minutes, lead visitors along concrete boardwalks equipped with railings and ample lighting. The cave is a constant 59 degrees year-round, so you might want to bring a long-sleeved shirt. The brief tour leaves plenty of time to explore hiking trails and enjoy fishing on the nearby lake. Additionally, Bull Shoals Caverns serves as a unique venue for weddings, if you’ve ever had the desire to get hitched underground.

Visiting the Cave

Tours run from March 15 through Thanksgiving weekend. Cavern prices are $19.95 for adults and $9.95 for children (5-11).

6. War Eagle Cavern

War Eagle Cavern is just outside of Rogers in Northwest Arkansas. This one is a cave for every kind of explorer wanting to see Arkansas’ underground beauty. The cave has a documented history as a Native American shelter and a hideout for bad guys!

The Trail

For the casual explorer, guided cave tours, lasting an hour, depart every 20 minutes throughout the day. This accessible half-mile journey caters to all visitors, delving into the cave’s history as a Native American homestead and later a refuge for outlaws. Along the way, you’ll encounter underground streams, mesmerizing formations, and unique domes. The cave system is also home to bats and salamanders your guide will point out.

For those seeking a deeper dive into the cavern’s history, lantern tours are available after hours with advance booking. It’s a fun opportunity to explore the caves as the original finder would have, with nothing more than a hand lantern and some bravery!

Spelunkers will want to book the challenging three-hour Wild Cavern Tour! It involves rigorous physical activity, climbing, and navigating tight spaces. While not listed on their website, it may be possible to arrange this tour via email.

Beyond the cavern, visitors can explore hiking trails around Beaver Lake, try their hand at gem panning, visit the Moonshiners Mystery Shack, and discover local waterfalls.

Visiting the Cave

War Eagle is open from March 5th to Thanksgiving weekend each year. Adult tickets are $23.00 and children (4-12) get in for $14.00.

7. Old Spanish Treasure Cave

Nestled in Sulphur Springs, Old Spanish Treasure Cave beckons all treasure hunters with natural wonders and tales of hidden riches dating back to the 1800s. Legend has it that Spanish treasure lies buried within the cave system, enticing gold seekers for generations. While many have searched tirelessly for the elusive gold, its whereabouts remain a mystery, waiting for you to uncover.

The Trail

Beyond the treasure hunt allure, Old Spanish Treasure Cave offers a delightful outing for the entire family. The cave tour, spanning just 1/3 mile, embraces the conquistador legend, making it an engaging experience for young adventurers. The park features additional attractions such as a gemstone panning exhibit, cave movie nights, and a charming gift shop stocked with locally crafted gemstone jewelry and an array of rocks and minerals.

Visiting the Cave

The cave is open year-round but with a varying tour schedule. While walk-ins are usually available, it’s advised to book your tickets online in advance and arrive at least 20 minutes before your tour. Adult tickets are $21.00 and children (4-12) are $12.00.

Bring along a lawn chair to enjoy the underground movie theater during its season. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates on movie showings and schedules. Additionally, the cave extends special school group rates at just $6.50 per student, which includes gemstone panning.

8. Beckham Creek Cave Lodge

Beckham Creek offers a unique experience, unlike any other cave on our list. Beckham Creek is a privately owned cave system that the owners have ingeniously turned into a luxurious subterranean mansion. They rent the high-end home to vacationers, and I can’t think of a cooler place to stay!

Nestled high on a bluff within a natural cavern, the 5,800-square-foot dwelling boasts four bedrooms, comfortably accommodating 8-12 guests. With a spacious common area, fully equipped kitchen, four bathrooms, and 256 acres of private property to explore, every detail is carefully curated for an unforgettable stay.

However, this luxury comes with a price tag, averaging around $2,200 per night with a two-night minimum stay. Featured in prestigious publications such as Travel+Leisure, Forbes, The New York Times, and Southern Living, Beckham Creek Cave Lodge promises an unparalleled experience for those seeking opulence in the natural beauty of Arkansas.

9. Cosmic Cavern

Cosmic Cavern is located in Berryville, between Eureka Springs and Branson, and is the largest privately owned show cave in Arkansas. It’s also the only cave tour on the list to be voted as one of the top 10 guided tours in Arkansas. Boasting not one, but two underground lakes, Cosmic Cavern holds the title of being the warmest cave in the region, maintaining a constant temperature of 64 degrees. One of these lakes was once home to a thriving population of trout until the flood of 2011. The lakes are so vast that their end hasn’t been found yet, earning them the label of “bottomless lakes.”

The Trail

The basic cave tour lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes, showcasing stunning rock formations like a nine-foot soda straw, cave popcorn, and cave bacon. You’ll receive an expert guide who’ll provide an intense educational experience, and you’ll get to view the newest part of the cave, Silent Splendor, which was discovered in 1993. The trail is mostly flat and accessible, but it does involve a few stairs.

For those seeking a more adventurous experience, the Wild Cave Tour is available with advanced booking.

Visiting the Cave

Cosmic Cavern is open from 9:00 to 5:00, seven days a week. Adult tickets are $20. Children (5-12) are $10.00. They offer a $2 off coupon on their website!

10. Blowing Cave

Blowing Cave, previously known for its wild cave tours, is steeped in local lore. The cave is a hot spot for paranormal activity, and visitors report encounters with aliens and mysterious beings in the cavern. Supposedly, there’s a hidden cave deep within that’s inhabited by “the blue people.”

The cave has undergone a change in ownership and now offers open houses on Sundays instead of wild tours. Self-guided tours seem to still be available by appointment and at the owner’s discretion. Past misuse, including campfires within the cavern, had driven out much of the wildlife. Thankfully, under new management, the system is recovering. However, since June 2023, the cave has been temporarily closed as efforts are made to welcome back a maternal bat colony.

The Trail

Only 1.5 miles of the cave system have been mapped by the Little Rock Grotto Club and are accessible for exploration, featuring an interior waterfall. Tour participants should be prepared to walk through shallow water and should bring a headlamp and sturdy shoes.

Visiting the Cave

To stay updated on the cave’s reopening, you can monitor their Facebook page (with a website reportedly in development) or contact them directly at 870-668-6254. Additionally, accessing the property via the rough road requires a high-clearance vehicle.

Caving Safety

In addition to the show caves above, there are innumerable wild caves, overhangs, and rock shelters to explore in Arkansas’ forest lands and state parks. Many of these are within state parks, and you can ask for a guided tour or explore on your own. Others are on private property, so always check with the landowner before exploring a wild cave. Here are a few more notes on exploring caves in Arkansas.

  • Caving is never to be done alone. Many of the Arkansas caves are not completely mapped, and you should always have a climbing buddy when exploring.
  • Take a small first aid kit.
  • Let someone know where you are caving and when you plan on returning.
  • Make sure the location on your phone is on or that you have an alternate form of communication.
  • Pack a long-sleeve shirt or light coat.
  • Wear closed-toed and sturdy shoes.
  • Check all cave websites for accessibility limitations and plan appropriately.
  • Bring a camera with a flash (just make sure you’re allowed to use flash as some caves prohibit it for animal safety).
  • Get a guided tour when possible, especially for the show caves. They are immensely educational.

Time to Explore Arkansas’ Caves!

Rock formations in one of the caverns in Arkansas

These Arkansas caves are just a taste of the incredible outdoor experiences awaiting you in the Natural State. I highly encourage you to spend at least one weekend this summer exploring the incredible subterranean wonders of the caverns in Arkansas! They are fun, educational, and jaw-droppingly beautiful!

For more fun adventures this summer, check out our list of the best Arkansas campsites or explore one of our excellent amusement or water parks!

‘Til next time, get out there and explore our great state!

Get Our Monthly Educational Activity Guides to Traveling Arkansas
Get our Monthly Educational Activity Guides to Traveling Arkansas