Linville Caverns

Linville Caverns

A Geological Kaleidoscope

On Humpback Mountain near Linville Falls, 2,700 feet below the Blue Ridge Parkway, visitors can discover the real lowdown on the High Country at Linville Caverns.


Carved from a river flowing through the mountain's limestone for more than one hundred thousand years, Linville Caverns offers visitors a geological kaleidoscope of sparkling stalactites, stalagmites and other rock formations formed by mineral-laden drops of water absorbed from the surface of the mountains.

In fact, a few drops still fall depending on past rainstorms so take a waterproof jacket to keep dry and to keep away the slight chill in the constant 52-degree air.

For the cavern novice, remember stalactites are limestone-based rock formations that hang from cave ceilings (they hang on "tite" - get it?).

Stalagmites form on the ground when minerals in water drop from the ceiling and form an ever-growing rock mound. (They "mite" touch the ceiling someday - yes, it's corny but memorable).

When the two formations meet, a rock column is formed and Linville Caverns has plenty of those as well as glittering gem outcrops and chambers featuring amazing symmetry for a natural formation. In the center, look for "The Cathedral," which some say resembles a miniature, medieval wedding scene

If your tour guide doesn't remind you, refrain from touching the formations since oils from human hands can stop the rock growth.

Rocks aren't the only growing things in the caverns. Small, brown bats can occasionally be found taking a nap on the ceiling. The harmless mammals like to hang out - literally- especially during colder months to take advantage of the constant 52-degree climate. By summer, most of them are outside but don't be surprised to see a few sleepy stragglers, which are usually no larger than a human thumb.

Linville CavernsSpeaking of wildlife, be on the lookout for two or three varieties of trout in the caverns streams. Trout play a large part in the history of Linville Caverns when, sometime in the 1800s, a group of men discovered the caverns while trying to find where the fish in their streams originated.

The caverns are actually three levels and tourists are only allowed on the middle one. The lowest is the water level where streams meander at visitors' feet. The upper level is honeycombed with flow stone, a slick, glass-like form of limestone, which is too fragile to stand on. One section is so perfectly horizontal, slick and flat, tour guides refer to it as the "ballroom floor.

"To make sure nobody gets on the ballroom floor, we have a guardian that watches over it to keep people out of there," tour guide Ronnie Davis said, pointing his flashlight towards a rock formation resembling an alligator.

Like cloud watching, visitors can make a game out trying to match a formation with an animal or famous person. A hint: George Washington lurks somewhere in Linville Caverns as well as a mysterious figure known as "Mr. Bones."

The history of Linville Caverns is as fascinating as its many exotic rock formations.

Civil War soldiers used the caves to hide from enemy troops. Traces of campfires still exist in the cavern's central chambers. Unfortunately, smoke from the fires eventually made it out of the mountainside and soldiers thinking they had found the perfect hideout often discovered their fatal mistake too late.

In 1937, the caverns were open for commercial touring by John Q. Gilkey - one of the larger chambers is still named after him.

Thomas Edison once sent a team of explorers to the caverns hoping to find platinum - an element once thought vital in the production of incandescent lamps.

Although his team found no platinum, the variety of gems in the caverns sparked more interest in North Carolina's geological variety and helped establish it as "The Gem State."

Near the end of the tour, the caverns open to a "bottomless lake." Several years ago, when its owners tried to gauge the lake's depth, their measuring device stopped at its limit: 250 feet.

Visitors can stand on a metal bridge and gaze deep into the clear water thanks to powerful, underwater lighting.

People suffering from claustrophobia should know that part of the tour includes the extinguishing of the cave lights to demonstrate what total darkness is like.

While most of the passages are easy to navigate, a few earn the moniker "fat man's squeeze." Visitors should dress warmly and always watch for low hanging rocks. Examples of the caverns many minerals as well as other native North Carolina gems can be found in the gift shop after the tour.

Linville Caverns is located just off scenic U.S. 221 between the towns of Linville and Marion, just four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Parkway travelers should take the Linville Falls Village exit and head south on US 221.Linville Caverns

From Boone: Stay on US-105. It will turn into US-221. Head south on 221 for 14 mile and pass through the Linville Falls community. The caverns entrance will be on the right.

For more information, call Linville Caverns at (828) 756-4171, toll free at 1-800-419-0540, or visit their website at

Hours of Operation:
June 1- Labor Day:
9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Daily

April, May, September, October:
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Daily

November - March:
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Daily

December, January, February:
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

CLOSED ON Thanksgiving & Christmas Days

Admission Rates:
Children (5-12)____________$4.00
(under 5)_________________free
Seniors (62 plus)___________$4.50

Groups of 25 or More:
get a reduced rate.

More Information:
For more information, telephone Linville Caverns at 19929 US 221 North-Marion, NC-28752, 800-419-0540, 828-756-4171, toll free 1-800-419-0540 Email: Or visit their website at

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