Walk Half A Mile Deep Inside a Mountain at Linville Caverns

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Does cave exploring sound like a fun adventure? Linville Caverns in North Carolina is one of only a small number of deep caves where the public can explore within a few hours’ drive of Greenville. Kidding Around contributor Kristina explored it with her kids and tells us all about the unique experience. 

“So you’re standing half a mile straight down from the top of the mountain and about 700 feet inside,” said our tour guide at Linville Caverns. Is it bad my first thoughts were of Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Gandalf and their comrades venture inside the mountain where dwarfs used to live? While nowhere near as cavernous as that particular movie portrayed the inside of a mountain, Linville Caverns is fascinating, interesting, and a tad creepy. So definitely take your family. 

About Linville Caverns

The caverns were discovered in the early 1900s when a fisherman noted fish were coming from inside a mountain. He followed the water and found huge a huge, three-story limestone cavern. The caverns were opened to public in 1937 and have remained a favored destination in Western North Carolina ever since. 

Linville Caverns

The caves are 52 degrees Fahrenheit all year long and the water flowing through the formations is 42 degrees. Cool rainwater trickles from the ceilings of the cave, having been filtered through Humpback Mountain. 

Electric lights are visible throughout the caverns, which helps to see the unique stalactite and stalagmite formations, which honestly look alien. A little weird but pretty cool. 

Tours

The public cannot enter the caverns alone and must be on a guided tour. Tours are offered frequently (although during winter months, only on weekends) and tickets need to be purchased. 

Guides talk about all kinds of interesting tidbits about this subterranean world, like how the caverns were formed, how old the place is, and stories about how deserters from the wars in the area hid inside and created tools in exchange for food. 

Linville Caverns sign

One story, in particular, was a highlight. It was about two young boys who stumbled across the cave before it was open to the public. They waded in the cold water and one of them dropped their lantern into the water, causing them to lose all light.

This is the part where the guide told us that there are only two places in the world to experience total darkness: the bottom of the ocean and caverns. After warning us, he killed the remaining light and then it was pitch black. We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. Our vision was useless. I thought it was a neat experience but my youngest (5 years old) got scared after a few seconds. Certainly be prepared. 

Those two boys did end up making it out of the caves, although I have no idea how they managed to keep their wits.

You also walk through an exceptionally narrow part of the caves, which may give some pause to those who are claustrophobic. You don’t have to do this part of the tour though. 

The whole tour lasted around 30 minutes. We even got to see a bat near the ceiling on our way out of the caverns. 

I took my two kids, ages 9 and 5, and they really enjoyed it. It helped to be in the front of our group near the guide so they could pick up what he was saying and pointing at.

If you’re looking for a unique experience for your family or guests that are visiting, this is the place to go. 

Need to know information

  • Due to COVID-19, face masks are required inside the caverns and tours are limited to 9 people each, including kids.
  • They are only open Saturdays and Sundays in January and February, weather permitting. In March, April, and May, they are open on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Hours are 9 am-5 pm. 
  • There are admission tickets that you will need to purchase at the adjacent gift shop. Get there early to make sure you get tickets.
  • Most of the caverns tour is wheelchair accessible (there are only two parts that would be impossible to navigate) but the walkways are flat and wide.
  • Kids are welcome but they need to be supervised at all times.
  • No food, drinks, or backpacks are allowed inside the caverns.
  • Since the temperature is always 52 degrees, come prepared with a light jacket. If it has a hood, even better, because of the water dripping from the ceilings. 
  • Restrooms are located outside the caverns but there are none inside so be sure to use the bathroom before the tour.
  • Cameras and flash photography are allowed. 
  • Pets are only allowed if the owner carries them on the whole tour; otherwise, no pets are allowed. 
  • Strollers are not permitted inside the caverns. 
  • The final tour departs at closing time.

Tickets

Tickets can be purchased at the gift shop next to the entrance to the caverns. Adults are $12 and kids ages 5-12 are $10. Children ages 4 and under are free with a paying adult. 

Hours

Linville Caverns are open during December and January only on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am – 4:30 pm. The hours in June, July, and August are 9 am – 6 pm every day. In March and November,  they are open daily from 9 am – 4:30 pm. In April and May, after Labor Day and through October, daily hours are 9 am – 5 pm. 

Linville Caverns cave formations

Area Attractions

Since Linville Caverns is two hours from Greenville, it’s best to plan ahead to make a whole day of the trip in that area. 

The Linville Gorge is about ten minutes away and the Blue Ridge Parkway is four miles from the caverns. The trailhead to the famed Linville Falls is really close, just a few miles down Hwy 221. You can get to various overlooks of the waterfalls through gorgeous, and fairly short, hiking trails. It’s certainly worth it to go see the falls if you’re up in that area. 

Linville Falls

The town of Little Switzerland is a short half-hour drive from Linville Caverns and has a cool Emerald Village for gem mining. They even have a blacklight tour for older kids (or adults, let’s be honest).

Exploring downtown Marion, NC is another fun way to enjoy the day trip. They have a cute Main Street with art exhibits and restaurants. 

Have you been to Linville Caverns?

Linville Caverns
19929 US 221 North
Marion, NC 
828.756.4171

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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