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California Cavern
State Historic Landmark

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Season and Hours 

WINTER SEASON

Starting September 8th, OPEN  10 am to 4 pm daily

First tour departs at 10am and last tour departs 4 pm.  

Mammoth Cave Expedition and Middle Earth Cave Expedition OPEN 

All times subject to change.  Call to confirm, 866-762-2837.

SUMMER SEASON

Starting April 1, 2015:

OPEN DAILY 10am to 5pm.

First tour departs at 10am and last tour departs 5pm. 

Mammoth Expedition Trips now available! Call 866-762-2837 for reservations. 

Middle Earth Expedition now available! Call 866-762-2837 for reservations. 


Map and Directions

To find California Cavern, click on the map below.

california cavern map

 

Above Ground Activities and Amenities

Gemstone mining
Gold Panning
Geode cracking
Nature trail
Picnic tables
Gift Shop
Restrooms
Click HERE for prices.

National Geographic geotourism





PBS kids science show DragonflyTV was shot at California Cavern and played nationwide in 2004. To see a slideshow of the stars and the filming, click HERE. Click on the link below to see part of the episode.


 
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California Cavern State Historic Landmark
 

walk tour Trail of Lakes rappel adventure trip zip lines
Gemstone Mining

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 trail routeIn 1850, Captain Taylor opened the cave for public tours, making it the first show cave in the state of California. Click on the interactive map at left to see the original walk tour trail, in comparison with the current, longer walk tour trail which was established in 1980, after the cave was renamed California Cavern.


Early visitors included Bret Harte, Mark Twain and John Muir who wrote abouthis 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. Besides 2 fun 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. Scroll down the page to learn more about each activity..
 

Below are 2 videos showing cavers 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!

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Trail of LightsThe Trail of Lights Walk Tour - available DRY season only

This guided tour is suitable for the whole family and is only available during our dry season. In our wet season, the Trail of Lakes tour is available (see below).
The Trail of lights is approximately 60 - 80 minutes, and meanders over nearly level, well lighted passages and walkways. There are approximately 60 steps throughout this tour. Experienced, professional guides lead groups into the recently discovered "Jungle Room," named for the array of crystalline "vines" covering the ceiling, many of them several feet long. Groups learn about the rich history of the cavern and the surrounding countryside, and cavern formation and geology. For safety reasons, we do not allow children to be carried in backpacks on this tour. Small babies in front packs/slings are okay. 
 
free birthdaysFACTS AT A GLANCE: Trail of Lights Walk Tour
FREE birthday activity eligible. What's this?

 
Adventure Scale: 1.5 adventure scale 1.5
Availability DRY season only
Regular cost per person $14.95 adult, $7.95 child (ages 3 - 12)
Length of trip 60 - 80 minutes
Group size Up to 25 people
Underground temperature 55°F year round
Making reservations Reservations necessary for GROUPS ONLY: call toll free any day of the week: 866-762-2837. Group discounts available.


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Trail of LakesThe Trail of Lakes Walk Tour - available WET season only

This guided tour is suitable for the whole family and is only available during our wet season. During the wet season we refer to the cavern tour as the Trail of Lakes tour, due to the pools of water that form throughout the cavern when the water table rises.  Depending on the time of year, a few rooms may not be accessible because of the high water.  But in trade, you enjoy the mirror effect of the water reflecting the crystalline formations along the trail. 

The Trail of lakes is approximately 60 - 80 minutes, and meanders over nearly level, well lighted passages and walkways. There are approximately 60 steps throughout this tour.  Experienced, professional guides lead groups into the recently discovered "Jungle Room," named for the array of crystalline "vines" covering the ceiling, many of them several feet long. Groups learn about the rich history of the cavern and the surrounding countryside, and cavern formation and geology. For safety reasons, we do not allow children to be carried in backpacks on this tour. Small babies in front packs/slings are okay. 
 
free birthdaysFACTS AT A GLANCE: Trail of Lakes Walk Tour
FREE birthday activity eligible. What's this?

 
Adventure Scale: 1.5
Availability WET season only
Regular cost per person $14.95 adult, $7.95 child (ages 3 - 12)
Length of trip 50 - 60 minutes
Group size Up to 25 people
Underground temperature 55°F year round
Making reservations Reservations necessary for GROUPS ONLY: call toll free any day of the week: 866-762-2837. Group discounts available.


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Mammoth Cave ExpeditionThe Mammoth Cave Expedition

expedition prep.Groups explore the historic "Mammoth Cave" area and "Jungle Room," walking, crawling, wiggling, and squirming through natural passages that connect through thirteen chambers. This extended cavern trip is perfect for those who desire something more than a walk, but less stamina is needed compared to the other adventures offered. All tight crawl ways and squeezes are optional. Participants must be at least 8 years old, and minors must be accompanied by an adult. Trip time is about 2-3 hours. If you are interested in taking this trip, you will need to call 209-736-2708 to make reservations. To see how to prepare for your trip, HERE for Expedition Preparation.
 
FACTS AT A GLANCE: Mammoth Cave Expedition
Adventure Scale: 3.5 adventure scale 3.5
Availability DRY season only
Minimum age 8 years if accompanied by parent
Regular cost per person $99 per person
Length of trip 2 - 3 hours
Group size Up to 9 people
Underground temperature 55°F year round
Equipment provided Hardhat with lights, gloves, coveralls
Making reservations Call toll free any day of the week: 866-762-2837. This activity REQUIRES advance reservations.


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Middle Earth ExpeditionThe Middle Earth Expedition

expedition prep.Groups explore approximately 80% of the cavern system from the east entrance to the western most exit. The circuit is about a mile long, so stamina is required! The first hour of the trip consists of walking, crawling and squeezing through the historic "Mammoth Cave" area. Then groupspass through the "Middle Earth" area which was discovered in 1980. Here there is mostly walking through nearly knee deep, sticky cave clay (high top shoes are a must) and the scenery is incredibly beautiful. The remainder of the trip consists of exploring the horizontal fissures in the "Cave of the Quills" area and a quick, 70-foot rafting trip across "Tom's Lake." The trip concludes with passages filled with "goo," more beautiful crystalline rooms, and then ascending ladders to sunshine and showers. Participants must be at least 16 years old, and minors must be accompanied by an adult. Trip time varies depending on the number of participants and ranges from 2-1/2 to a maximum of 4 hours. If you are interested in taking this extended cave trip, you will need to call 209-736-2708 to make reservations. To see how to prepare for your trip, HERE for Expedition Preparation. To get more of an idea of what spelunking looks like, click here to read an account of one Middle Earth Expedition and to see some amateur pictures.

The Middle Earth Expedition makes an exceptional team building activity.
 
FACTS AT A GLANCE: Middle Earth Expedition
Adventure Scale: 5 adventure scale 5.0
Availability DRY season only
Minimum age 16 years if accompanied by parent
Regular cost per person $130 per person
Length of trip Up to 4 hours
Group size Up to 9 people
Underground temperature 55°F year round
Equipment provided Hardhat with lights, gloves, coveralls
Making reservations Call toll free any day of the week: 866-762-2837. This activity REQUIRES advance reservations.

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