Alabama is often not the first state on people's minds for a vacation destination or for caving. But the Deep South State has some of the best caves open to the public in the nation. Their Cathedral Cavern State Park has been developed as a tourist attraction since the 1950s. Alabama is much more than the childhood setting of the lovable Forrest Gump.

Down in sweet home Alabama where the skies are so blue, there are also caverns so deep and mysterious. To visit caves in the United States that are national parks, see here for what to expect visiting the massive Mammoth Caves National Park.

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What To Know About Cathedral Caverns

While the Cathedral Caverns were first called Bat Cave, they found a new and more appropriate name that reflected their cathedral-like appearance. They were purchased by the state in 1987 and opened as a State Park in 2000.

  • Designated: National Natural Landmark In 1972
  • Located: In Kennamer Cove, Alabama

The Cathedral Caverns is a karst cave and with many truly impressive formations within it. Famously it has a large stalagmite forest covering around 1.2 hectares. The part of the cave that is open to the public has a wheelchair-accessible concrete walkway extending for much of the distance.

  • Concrete Walkway: About 3,500 Feet or 1,100 Meters Long and 8 Feet Wide or 2.4 Meters Wide (Wheelchair Accessible)
  • Non-Concreted Trail: Another 2,700 Feet or 820 Meters Beyond The End Of the Pathway
  • The Big Room: Measures 792 Feet or 241 Meters Long and 200 Feet or 61 Meters Wide
  • Note: After Heavy Rain The Mystery River Running Through The Cavern Can Cause Flooding
  • Civil War: The Cave Was Owned By The Kennamer Family After Their Farmhouse Was Burned Down By Union Soldiers They Lived In The Cave For An Extended Period Of Time

The first thing people note about the Caverns is their massive entrance. As people proceed beyond the grand entrance visitors are struck by some of the most stunning formations crafted by Mother Nature.

Related: Visiting The Stunning Maya Ritual Caves Of The Mayan Peninsula

The caves are home to the "Goliath" - one of the largest stalagmites in the world. Other attractions here include the "caveman" sitting atop a flowstone wall, a large stalagmite forest, and a "frozen" waterfall. One of the more bewildering stone formations in the caverns is a stalagmite that is some 27 feet tall and yet only a punny 3 inches wide - the reverse of the "Goliath" Stalagmite.

  • The Mouth of The Cave: 126 Feet Wide By 25 Feet High (Perhaps the Largest For A Commercial Cave)
  • The "Goliath" Stalagmite: 45 Feet Tall and 243 Feet In Circumference
  • Temperature: A Constant 60 degrees Year-Round

Cave Tours And Visiting The Cave

Cave tours depart throughout the day. From Monday to Thursday there are normally four tours scheduled from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. From Friday to Sunday this increases to seven tours throughout the day from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

One of the great activities for the kids is their gemstone mining activity. With this activity, a bag or bucket of mining dirt is purchased and then the children enjoy themselves shifting through it with running water in a custom-made flume. The mining dirt has of course been seeded with rough-cut gemstones or fossils. They then identify the gemstones with the gemstone identification display.

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Guided tours are required to explore the caves and pets are not permitted anywhere. Note that school months are popular times for school groups and so if visiting in these times there may be large groups of excited and noisy kids in the caverns.

  • Open: 7 Days A Week
  • Reservation: Tour Reservations Are Recommended, Available by Phone But No More Than 2 Days In Advance, Full Nonrefundable Payment Required For Reservations
  • Adult: $20.00 Aged 13 Years And Up
  • Child: $9.00 Aged 5-12
  • Infants: Below Five Years Of Age Free
  • Length Of Tours: Around 90 Minutes And A 1.5 Mile Round Trip
  • Closed: Only Three Days A year, Thanksgiving Day, Xmas Day, and New Year's Day

The Welcome Center opens every day at 9:00 am and closes for the night after the last group has left the cave. For more information about these tours and other activities in the park see here.

Related: This Is Why Visiting The Cave Of Winds Mountain Park In Colorado Is So Otherworldly

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Accommodation/Camping

There is actually luxury accommodation within the Ozarks caves in Arkansas, do see what this unusual accommodation is like see here.

If one would like to stay inside the state park, then there are a number of improved campsites and primitive tent camping areas. The backcountry campsite is for those wanting to backpack and hike to the site - the hike is around three-quarters of a mile long.

  • Checkout: By 2:00 PM

Online camping reservations are now possible. All campers must register and pay their fees at least one hour before sunset (otherwise they will not be permitted to start on the trail any later than that).

 Next: Waitomo Caves: When To Go, What To See, And How Best To Explore This Incredible Destination