California Cavern, State Historic Landmark

Cave Walking Tours  |  Mammoth Cave Expedition  |  Middle Earth Cave Expedition

Candle Stick stalagmite at California Cavern.

Candle Stick stalagmite at California Cavern.

California Cavern is on limited hours. Please check the Directions and Hours web page for details.

In 1849 or 1850, Captain Joseph Taylor was target shooting on a rocky outcropping and noticed that his targets were being moved by a breeze which seemed to emanate from the rocks. When he investigated this curious phenomenon, he discovered the entrance to a cave which he named Mammoth Cave.

Cave City Hotel

Cave City Hotel

In 1850, Captain Taylor opened the cave for public tours, making it the first show cave in the state of California. Early visitors included Bret Harte, Mark Twain and John Muir who wrote about his visit in “Chapter 15 – In the Sierra Foot-Hills” of his 1894 book “The Mountains of California” when it was called Cave City Cave.

For 150 years, visitors have enjoyed the unique delicate beauty of the cavern’s crystalline formations. Some speleothems, such as the beaded helictites found in the Middle Earth area are very rare. Others are so numerous as to be spectacular, such as the “Jungle Room’s” array of stalactites.

Jungle Room at California Cavern.

Jungle room at California Cavern.

Besides the Trail of Lights and the Trail of Lakes cave walking tours, we also offer the wonderful opportunity to participate in underground adventures – our professionally guided wild cavern spelunking trips – the Mammoth Cave Expedition and Middle Earth Expedition.

Below are 2 videos showing guests negotiating the Womb Room. This is the “claustrophobia test” at the beginning of the Mammoth Cave Expedition and Middle Earth Expedition. This is NOT part of the walking tour!