FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

How accessible are the different locations?

None of our caverns is wheelchair accessible. We describe the kind of terrain on the WALK TOUR at each venue below, to help you determine if you will be able to take our tours. All of our EXPEDITIONS are far less accessible, which adds to the adventure! On those trips, crawling, climbing and squeezing through the natural wet, rocky and muddy environment is necessary.

We do not recommend any of our walk tours to people who are claustrophobic, and those who have a fear of heights are likely to encounter problems at Moaning Cavern and Black Chasm.

Black Chasm Cavern Walk Tour
The Landmark Tour consists of a descent of approximately 60 feet down five flights of stairs onto four viewing platforms at different levels into the Colossal Chamber. A shallow staircase is climbed taking groups to the Landmark portal where another stairacase is then climbed down into the Landmark Room. For this reason, strollers and wheelchairs cannot negotiate the trail and children may not be carried in backpacks. Small children in front packs are okay with care. The same stairs are climbed to exit the cave.

California Cavern Walk Tour
An approximately 1000-foot long unpaved trail with small protruding rocks and roots to cavern entrance. Trail inside cavern is fairly level on natural cavern floor which may be slightly muddy. There are a few steps along the trail. Total length of tour is 1500 feet. A few places have low ceilings that require walking in a bent position; therefore, backpacks cannot be worn. You take the same outside trail back to the visitor center.

Moaning Cavern Walk Tour
The entrance to the cavern is accessed from inside the gift shop. The tour descends 235 steps (144 of which are on the 100-foot spiral staircase) to a depth of 165 feet, then comes back up the same steps.

Due to the sometimes narrow and uneven nature of the cavern passages, wheelchairs and strollers are not able to negotiate the trails. In addition, the occasional low ceiling does not allow for infants to be carried in backpacks.

What are the age & size limits?
Black Chasm
Walking tours – The stairs make it unsafe to carry a child without support and prevent the use of strollers or wheelchairs, so children need to be old enough to walk on their own or small enough to fit in a front carrier.

Labyrinth Tour – (No longer available at this time) Available for ages 8 and up only. Must be in good health and physically fit.

California Cavern
Walking tours – Because of low ceilings which prevent the use of backpacks, children need to be old enough to walk on their own, or small enough to fit in a front carrier. The narrow, uneven path prevents the use of strollers and wheelchairs. There are no maximum size limits; however, keep in mind that there are occasional narrow passages and low ceilings that may require some maneuvering.

Mammoth Cave Expedition- Cavern exploration requires good health! Those with conditions such as heart and lung problems, pregnancy, impaired mobility or excessive weight should not attempt the adventure. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO NOTIFY US IF YOU OR ANYONE IN YOUR GROUP MAY REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION OR AWARENESS ON THE PART OF YOUR GUIDE! Participants must be at least 8 years old, 3.5 feet tall, and 50 pounds. There are no maximum limits, however, keep in mind that the trip includes squeezing through passages with diameters as narrow as 24 inches. Guides will limit participation to persons they believe to be suitable and fit. Although our cavern trips involve little danger, all participants and parents of participating minor children are required to sign a waiver of liability.

Middle Earth Expedition- Cavern exploration requires good health, and this particular expedition requires the most stamina, since it can be up to 5 hours long. Those with conditions such as heart and lung problems, pregnancy, impaired mobility or excessive weight should not attempt the adventure. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO NOTIFY US IF YOU OR ANYONE IN YOUR GROUP MAY REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION OR AWARENESS ON THE PART OF YOUR GUIDE! Participants must be at least 16 years old, 5 feet tall, and 100 pounds. There are no maximum limits, however, keep in mind that the trip includes squeezing through passages with diameters as narrow as 24 inches. Guides will limit participation to persons they believe to be suitable and fit. Although our cavern trips involve little danger, all participants and parents of participating minor children are required to sign a waiver of liability.

Moaning Cavern
Walking tours- Because the narrow and low entrance passage prevents the use of backpacks, and the stairs make it unsafe to carry a child without support and prevents the use of strollers or wheelchairs, children need to be old enough to walk on their own or small enough to fit in a front carrier.

Rappel- participants need to be at least 12 years old, 100 pounds, 4 feet tall. There is no maximum age or weight limit. Please be aware that any minor participants must be at least 12 years old, and special restrictions apply. There are five ways a minor child (aged 12 to 17) may rappel at Moaning Cavern:
Their parent or legal guardian is present to evaluate the rappel, complete and sign the waiver.
They bring a signed waiver that has been notarized.
They bring a signed waiver that has been witnessed by another adult who is present at the cavern and can verify the signature.
They bring a notarized letter from a parent or legal guardian authorizing another adult who is present at the cavern to evaluate the rappel and sign the waiver.
They bring a signed letter from a parent or legal guardian which includes a witness signature of another adult who is present at the cavern who can verify their signature, authorizing that adult to evaluate the rappel and sign the waiver.
Adventure Trip with rappel – Cavern exploration requires good health! Those with conditions such as heart and lung problems, pregnancy, impaired mobility or excessive weight should not attempt the adventure. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO NOTIFY US IF YOU OR ANYONE IN YOUR GROUP MAY REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION OR AWARENESS ON THE PART OF YOUR GUIDE! Participants must be at least 12 years old. Guides will limit participation to persons they believe to be suitable and fit. Although our cavern trips involve little danger, all participants and parents of participating minor children are required to sign a waiver of liability. This trip includes the rappel, which carries special restrictions; there are five ways a minor child (aged 12 to 17) may rappel at Moaning Cavern:

Their parent or legal guardian is present to evaluate the rappel and sign the waiver.
They bring a signed waiver that has been notarized.
They bring a signed waiver that has been witnessed by another adult who is present at the cavern and can verify the signature.
They bring a notarized letter from a parent or legal guardian authorizing another adult who is present at the cavern to evaluate the rappel and sign the waiver.
They bring a signed letter from a parent or legal guardian which includes a witness signature of another adult who is present at the cavern who can verify their signature, authorizing that adult to evaluate the rappel and sign the waiver.
Adventure Trip without rappel – same limits as Adventure Trip with the rappel, except parent or legal guardian need not be present for minor child if the waiver is signed by an absentee parent.

Zip Lines – there are no age requirements – but all participants must meet the weight requirement which averages between 70 and 280 pounds. All participants must complete a release and waiver of liability form. Parents must complete this form for their minor children.

What are the best times to visit?
A: In general, the best times to visit are when we are less crowded, which tends to be in the winter, early spring and late fall. These are also beautiful times to visit the Mother Lode which is beautifully green from the rains. Below are descriptions of what’s available and when, at each individual location:

Black Chasm
Landmark Tours are available every day of the week. The cavern is open year round but in icy weather, the road is likely to be hard to navigate. Weekends tend to be busier than weekdays, and when Daffodil Hill is in full bloom sometime in the spring, Black Chasm is also very busy.

California Cavern
Guided walking tours are now available year round. During the rainy season when water levels are higher, you will see the Trail of Lakes Tour which follows the accessible part of the Trail of Lights Tour, and shows the cavern at its most picturesque when there are plenty of pools of water.

During the summer season you will see the Trail of Lights Tour which follows the entire trail into the Jungle Room. You will not see pools of water, but will navigate through a longer route and see the enchanting, pristine Jungle Room which is not available on the Trail of Lakes Tour.

You can choose to decide when to visit depending on your preference for a particular walking tour, or you can choose to visit when there are less people in the winter, early spring and late fall. Summer is our busiest time, especially on weekends and holidays.

Expeditions are available as the water recedes in the cave. You will need to check California Cavern’s page on this website for updates.

When California Cavern is open in the spring, the Trail of Lights Walking Tour may be all that is available. The chance to see pools of water that cannot be seen later are worth the possibility of missing some rooms due to high water.

By August the water level has gone down enough to allow access to the whole cave for all three tours and it is the height of the season. Memorial Day through Labor Day are the busiest times, especially on weekends and holidays.

Fall is a perfect time to visit because it is not busy and the cavern is fully accessible.

The winter rains begin the flooding process. The cavern stays open as long as possible. However, we never know when complete flooding will happen. This is also a nice time of year to visit since it is not so busy and the pools of water are once again in place. The wild cave expedition areas are the first to flood. When the Trail of Lights route floods the cavern is closed.

Moaning Cavern
Moaning Cavern is open every day of the year, including Christmas. Memorial Day through Labor Day are the busiest times, especially on weekends and holidays.

Fall and winter is a wonderful time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. While Moaning Cavern doesn’t flood in the winter the cavern does get wet and visitors may get dripped on. The Rappel and Adventure Trip (both also available year round) can get very wet and muddy during the winter, which most people feel adds to the fun.

The zip lines are also available daily, year round (wind conditions permitting). Generally weekends and holidays are busy, and weekdays are less busy.

Can I bring my camera?
A: Walking Tours
Cameras are welcome at all of our locations as long as they include a wrist strap. While using your camera at any of our locations, please make sure you have it attached to yourself via your wrist strap. If you get some really good photos, we’d like to see them, and may feature them on our website! Just e-mail them in JPEG format to caverns@caverntours.com. Don’t forget to include your name(s), and some comments on your visit. Flashes are necessary for good pictures.

Rappel
Cameras are not allowed while rappelling – no exceptions. Rappellers who wish to take a camera in the cave may ask a cavern naturalist to take it down for them and they can then use it once they are off the ropes.

Zip
Cameras – still or video are permitted as long as they come with a wrist strap and the camera remains attached to your wrist while you are involved in the activity and/or while you are photographing or video recording an activity. If you get some good shots or footage, please email it to us at caverns@caverntours.com, and if you upload video to youtube, please email us a link. We will be delighted to see what you captured!

Wild Expeditions – The Mammoth Cave & Middle Earth Expeditions at California Cavern, and the Adventure Trips at both Gold Cliff Mine and Moaning Cavern –
Cameras are discouraged. It is difficult enough to maneuver without having to constantly deal with a carrying a camera. If you feel that you would like to bring one anyway, a disposable flash camera is recommended. The guide will make the final decision as to whether a camera will be permitted or not.

How should I dress?
A: Black Chasm Cavern
Walking tours – the cave environment is a cool 54°F, and humid year-round. However, short sleeved-shirts and shorts are usually fine. If you tend to chill easily, you should wear a sweatshirt and jeans. Shoes with good traction are recommended for going up and down the stairs. Please wear clothes that you do not mind getting dirty!

California Cavern
Walking tours- regardless of the outside temperature and weather, the cavern environment is a constant 55°F/13°C with mild humidity. Most people are fine in short sleeves and shorts, however, those who get cold easily may want to bring a sweater or light jacket. Keep in mind that a cave can be dirty, especially during wet weather. It is recommended that you do not wear anything you care about. There are minerals in the dirt that may not wash out of your clothes. Walking shoes such as sneakers are highly recommended. Slip-ons and sandals are not good caving shoes.

Wild cave expeditions – the Mammoth Cave Expedition and Middle Earth Expedition require special clothing and gear. This information is given to you when you make a reservation and is also on this web site under “Expedition Preparation.”

Moaning Cavern
Walking tours – regardless of the outside temperature and weather, the cavern environment is a constant 61°F/16°C with mild to high humidity. In addition to the warm conditions, you will warm up going down and then back up the 235 steps. Most people are fine in short sleeves and shorts. However, those who get cold easily may want to bring a sweater or light jacket.

Rappel – no special clothing is required to rappel, but keep in mind that you may get dirty and some minerals may not wash out. Sandals and slip on shoes are not allowed.

Adventure Trip – requires special clothing and gear. This information is given to you when you make a reservation.”

Do I qualify for a discount?

Coupons are available for discounts on our walking tours only. These coupons cannot be combined with any other discounts. Click here to print a coupon for your cavern visit. Information for large groups can be found on our Groups and Discounts web page. We also have a Free Birthdays program and a Locals Adventure Club program.

What facilities are at the caverns?
Black Chasm Cavern

Gift shop with snacks & drinks, nature, science, dragon & souvenir oriented merchandise and displays on the mapping & exploration of Black Chasm & its connection to the Matrix trilogy including props from the movies
Gemstone mining flumes
Restrooms
Picnic tables
Nature hiking trail

California Cavern

Gift shop with snacks & drinks, nature, science & souvenir oriented merchandise
Restrooms,
Picnic Tables
Gemstone Mining
Volleyball
Showers for expedition caverns
Tent Camping for expedition caverns

Moaning Cavern

Gift shop with snacks & drinks, nature, science & souvenir oriented merchandise
Restrooms
Picnic Tables
Gemstone Mining
Tent Camping – a small field is available for overnight stays on a first-come first-served basis for $10.00 per vehicle per night for adventure trip guests. There are no sites, hookups, showers or cooking areas. Campfires and barbecues are not allowed during dry periods. A restroom is available at the visitor center building. You need to bring your own drinking water.

Can I bring food and drinks underground?
In our conservation efforts, we do not allow any food, drinks, gum, tobacco or smoking in the caverns or gold mines. It only takes a small amount of these foreign materials to make a big difference to the cavern environment and to the cleanliness of the mine. However, if a visitor needs to bring a small, unopened pack of food for health purposes they can get it approved by their guide.
What are the operating dates & times?

Visit our Hours and Directions web page for all locations hours of operation and directions.

What information can you give private pilots?
Lots of information is available in the AOPA’s Airport Directory. In addition, we have compiled some information here, to help you navigate to our locations. Under some circumstances, we may be able to pick you up from the airport to participate in an expedition – ask our reservations specialist when you call to make your reservations.

Car Rental Main Branch Phone Numbers
Avis 800-331-1212
Alamo 800-327-9633
Enterprise 800-736-8222
Hertz 800-654-3131

The closest international airport to Black Chasm Cavern, California Cavern, Moaning Cavern & Sutter Gold Mine is Sacramento International Airport (N 38° 41.72, W 121° 35.44) 916-929-5411.

The closest international airport to Boyden Cavern is Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (N 36° 46.57, W 119° 43.08) 559-498-4095.
Black Chasm Cavern (N 38° 26, W 128° 37.6)
Placerville Airport (N 38° 43.45, W 120° 45.19) 530-622-0459
Taxi:
Lightening Taxi 530-626-8000
Car Rental:
Enterprise 530-621-0866

Westover Field, Jackson (N 38° 22.6, W 120° 47.63) 209-223-2376
Taxi:
Pioneer Cab Co 209-223-3335
Car Rental:
Enterprise 209-223-4200
California Cavern (N 38° 12, W 120° 30.5)
San Andreas Airport (N 38° 8.76, W 120° 38.89) 209-754-4208
Taxi:
Calaveras Taxi 209-754-5444
Gold Cliff Mine
Use Moaning Cavern’s information below, or California Cavern’s information above.

Moaning Cavern (N 38° 4, W 120° 28)
Columbia Airport (N 38° 1.82, W 120° 24.87) 209-533-5685
Taxis:
Courtesy Cab 209-536-6222
Vintage Cab 209-532-5466
All Points Cab 209-536-1845
Wy’s Guides Rides 209-536-9004
Car Rentals:
Enterprise 209-533-0500
Hertz 209-984-2088
Cars To Go 209-532-2277

Oakdale Airport (N 37° 45.38, W 120° 48.01) 209-847-1908
Taxis:
Oakdale Taxi 209-541-9451
Superior Taxi 209-848-5555
Car Rentals:
Dorothy’s 209-847-2600

Modesto Airport (N 37° 37.54, W 120° 57.26) 209-577-5318
Car Rentals:
Avis 209-527-7223
Hertz 209-522-3236
Central Valley Airports – located about 1-1/2 hours from California Cavern & Moaning Cavern:

Stockton Metropolitan Airport (N 37° 53.64, W 121° 14.29) 209-468-4700
Taxis:
Yellow Cab 209-462-8700
Dollar 888-588-4455
Car Rentals:
Hertz 209-982-0501

Tracy Municipal Airport (N 37° 41.34, W 121° 26.50) 209-835-4266
Taxis:
Dial A Ride 209-836-0620
Red Top Taxi 209-836-4340
Car Rentals:
Enterprise 209-835-3600

What are the regular prices & discount prices?
Visit our Prices web page for regular prices and visit to the Groups and Discounts web page for discount pricing.
How and when should I make reservations?
Groups such as schools or scouts, must make a reservation for the rappel or walking tours at any of our locations in order to qualify for discounted prices. No reservations are necessary for the rappel or walking tours if you are not part of a discounted group.

Reservations are always required for the Adventure Trip at Moaning Cavern and the Middle Earth and Mammoth Cave Expeditions at California Cavern.

Reservations cannot be guaranteed to be held unless prepaid. We recommend reserving 10 days in advance, minimum. However, reservations can be made as little as a day ahead by credit card.  To make reservations, call 209-736-2708 or toll free 866-762-2837

When making reservations please be ready with the following information:

  • Which location you want
  • Which tour you want
  • Several possible dates, in case your first choice is not available
  • Number of people, including how many adults and children
  • Additional activities you want to reserve if applicable (ie gemstone mining or gold panning)
  • Estimated arrival time
  • Group name, contact name, mailing address and phone number
What are the driving conditions in the area?
Black Chasm Cavern
The highways in the foothills are 2-lane roads. They are just like all the other country roads – going up and down hills, stop signs/lights here and there, and can be quite curvy at times.
From Hwy. 88 in Pinegrove, a few miles on a 2-lane country road
The cavern is below the snow line, so winter weather does not usually affect the roads.

California Cavern
The highways in the foothills are 2-lane roads. They are just like all the other country roads – going up and down hills, stop signs/lights here and there, and can be quite curvy at times.
The roads are 2-lane up to the last 1/4 mile before the cave, when Cave City Rd. turns into a single lane. Buses and other large trucks/RVs are able to negotiate these roads.
The cavern is below the snow line, so winter weather does not affect the roads.

Moaning Cavern
The highways in the foothills are 2-lane roads. They are just like all the other country roads – going up and down hills, stop signs/lights here and there, and can be quite curvy at times.
Moaning Cave Rd. is also a 2-lane road. Buses and other large trucks/RVs do just fine. The cavern is below the snow line, so winter weather does not affect the roads.

How safe are the tours & expeditions?
A cavern is a natural environment. In order to allow visitors to experience the cavern, some development is needed to make it accessible. In an effort to preserve the cavern for the use and enjoyment of future generations, some areas have been left untouched. Therefore, visitors on the walking tour may experience conditions such as low ceilings, narrow passages, and wet, muddy, slippery & uneven walkways. Please use your own discretion if you have health or emotional problems, or are claustrophobic. Scroll down to see information on specific locations:

Black Chasm Cavern
The Landmark Tour consists of 5 flights of stairs with handrails and four viewing platforms. This tour is not recommended for people with heart conditions, claustrophobia or a fear of heights.

California Cavern
The Trail of Lights & Trail of Lakes walking tours follow a developed trail with handrails where needed. There are a few short stairs, and some areas where you may need to duck to avoid hitting your head. This tour is not recommended for people with heart conditions or claustrophobia.

The Mammoth Cave Expedition and Middle Earth Expeditions- we provide professional equipment and trained expedition guides. The trips are of intermediate difficulty, yet easy enough to not require prior experience. However, these trips are high-adventure activities in a natural environment with inherent dangers including, but not limited to slippery surfaces, dislodged rocks, and improper use of equipment that no amount of care, caution, instruction, or expertise can eliminate. All participants are required to sign a release and waiver of liability, assumption of risk and indemnity agreement.

Moaning Cavern
The Traditional Walking Tour consists of 235 steps with handrails, 100 vertical feet of which takes place on a spiral staircase which must be walked twice; first down, then up. This tour is not recommended for people with heart conditions, claustrophobia or a fear of heights.

The Rappel & The Adventure Trip – we provide professional rappelling equipment and trained expedition guides. The rappel is easy enough to not require prior experience. However, it is a high-adventure activity in a natural environment with inherent dangers including, but not limited to slippery surfaces, dislodged rocks, and improper use of equipment that no amount of care, caution, instruction, or expertise can eliminate. All participants are required to sign a release and waiver of liability, assumption of risk and indemnity agreement. Minor children who plan on doing the rappel must have a parent or legal guardian present or must have a notarized letter from a parent or legal guardian giving them permission to do the rappel. We do not recommend these activities to people with heart conditions, claustrophobia or a fear of heights.

What are the tour sizes?
See below. Numbers listed are totals including adults & children:

Black Chasm Cavern
Walking tours 1-20 per tour

California Cavern
Walking tours 1 – 25 per tour
Expeditions 2 – 10 per trip

Moaning Cavern
Walking tours 1 – 35 per tour
Rappel done individually
Adventure Trip 2 – 8 per trip

What kinds of tours & trips are at each location?
Visit the specific location page for a complete list of the adventures you’ll find there.

Can I Use My Own Equipment?
For the Rappel or wild cavern and mine expeditions, we provide all necessary equipment, and recommend you also bring knee and elbow pads. If you wish to use your own equipment instead of what we provide, it is sometimes possible if it is compatible with our system. You can ask the Tour Guide when you arrive if the equipment is appropriate, or if you want to know ahead of time, call 866-762-2837.

No equipment or specialty gear is needed for any of our walking tours. We do, however, recommend you wear shoes with good traction for negotiating the naturally wet and rocky ground.