Last-Minute Mini Vacation – A Cave Dragon, Hikes and Holes.

We don’t have to tell you that summer is winding down and school has started for most families, so it’s time to plan that last minute mini vacation for you and your outdoor loving clan.  Cave & Mine Adventures wants to make it easy by suggesting this little day-trip or weekend getaway to lovely Amador County.

Vast collection of Helictites at Black Chasm Cavern. Photo by @CrashTestBarth

When visiting Amador, you would have never thought this quaint area was home to a cave dragon at Black Chasm Cavern, National Natural Landmark, and one of the largest collections of Native American grinding rocks holes within Indian Grinding Rock, State Historic Park.  Both of these destinations are great for folks with good mobility, a love of history and the great outdoors.

Start your mini-vacation at Black Chasm Cavern, located just outside the amazingly cute town of Volcano, CA -we’ll get back to that town in a minute.   Try to arrive in time for the 10am guided cave walk tour.  If you are a bit late, you can join the tour in progress, or wait for the next one.  Most tours begin at the top of the hour and are 45 minutes long.  On the cave tour you will be guided into the underground world of flow stone formations, soda straws and crystal formations that “grow” in every direction with one particular stalactite resembling a dragon, the cavern’s mascot.  These delicate beauties are called helictite formations and it’s very rare to find so many pack together in one amazing display. On the tour, visitors are educated how cave formations grow within the cave environment.  Be prepared to climb some stairs, about 190 of them!  Not to worry, you are not rushed and you can take the stairs at an easy rate along a elevated trail with hand railings to steady yourself if needed.

Zen Garden Nature Trail at Black Chasm Cavern. Photo by @AndyDoesSomeStuff.

Don’t hop in your car just yet, because a short hike through the Zen Garden Nature Trail, also located at Black Chasm Cavern, is a welcome treat.  This peaceful hiking trail is nestled among the huge marbleize limestone rocks exposed by hydraulic mining back in the 1800s.  These marble obelisks are incredible and should not be missed.  Ask one of the friendly staff members in the visitors center for directions to the trail head entrance.  And since you are in the visitors center, you’ll want to purchase a cool mineral specimen or souvenir.

After the cave tour and hike, your crew will need to fuel up with an early lunch.  Remember the adorable town of Volcano?  There are several lunch options within the town like the St. George Hotel and the Country Store, but The Volcano Union Inn Pub and Hotel has a very family menu and offers adult beverages, to boot.  The outdoor patio is a great place to relax while enjoying one of the yummy entrees and signature salads- the Heirloom Tomato Salad is a must to try!

Volcano Union Inn Pub and Hotel. Photo by @UpCountryFarms.

Once everyone is feeling fed and refreshed, it’s off to Indian Grinding Rocks, State Historic Park that hosts more than 1000 mortar holes that were use to grind acorns by the indigenous people of the area.  This is the largest collection of bedrock mortars holes in North America!  If you are feeling guilty about eating an entire basket of garlic fries, then hit the hiking trails- both the north and south trails are about 2 miles long, combined.  These trails traverse through meadows, an old farm site, a creek crossing and continues to the reconstructed Miwok village.  Wildlife is abundant so be ready to view ground squirrels, black-tailed deer, Steller jays and turkey vultures!   Each trail is self-guided but you can pick up a trail guide for only 50 cents to help you navigate.  And remember to pack water and pack out any garbage brought into the park.  Actually, that’s a good rule to follow wherever you travel, right?

Indian Grinding Rocks. Photo by @HardC0reKitty

Round out your visit at the Indian Grinding Rock museum that features a variety of exhibits and collections of Sierra Nevada Indian artifacts that include examples of the technology and crafts of the Miwok and other Sierra Nevada Native American groups.

This mini-vacation idea is easy to bang-out in one day or you can split is up over a weekend.  Below are the current prices and operational hours, as of Friday, August 25th, 2017.  However most tourist destinations tend to change from season to season, so it’s best to contact each location for availability and prices before venturing out.

Indian Grinding Rock. Photo by @HushAFace

Details and Tips:

Black Chasm Cavern, National Natural Landmark
15701 Pioneer Volcano Rd, Volcano, CA 95689
(209) 736-2708
Cave Walk Tour Ticket price: $17.50 adult and $9.50, child, 12 or younger
Zen Garden Nature Trail price: Free
Open daily, 9am to 5pm until after Labor Day Weekend.  After September 5th, hours are 10am to 4pm Monday-Friday and 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday. or

Volcano Union Inn Pub and Hotel
21375 Consolation Street
Volcano, California 95689
(209) 296-7711
Lunch only served on Saturdays and Sundays.  Many of the businesses in Volcano change their
hours after Labor Day Weekend, so be sure to call for availability.

Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park
14881 Pine Grove Volcano Rd, Pine Grove, CA 95665
(209) 296-7488
Day Use: $8.00/per vehicle
Park Day Use Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Museum Hours: 10 am to 4:00 pm