The Western Edge of the Sierra is blessed with a Series of Caves that are begging to be explored.

The Crystal Cave – Sequoia National Park

Visiting Crystal Cave

The 2019 season is May 24 – September 29. Crystal Cave is an excellent example of a marble cavern. A half-mile loop trail leads through the cave, and there’s also a steep half-mile walk to and from the cave parking area to the entrance. Because of fragile formations, the only way to visit the cave is on a guided tour. Tours are suitable for all ages. If you decide to see the cave, plan on spending about half a day traveling to the cave, walking to the entrance, and taking the 45-minute tour.

Guided tours of Crystal Cave are offered from spring through fall by our partner, the Sequoia Parks Conservancy. Buy tickets online at least two days in advance, or earlier for weekend and holiday tours. If tickets are not sold out, they may be available at visitor centers.Tickets are never sold at the cave.


Crystal Cave is near the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. From Foothills Visitor Center: turn right on to Generals Hwy. Drive 13 miles (20km). Turn left on to the Cave Road — look for the sign as you enter Giant Forest. Drive 6.5 miles (10km) to the parking area. From Lodgepole Visitor Center: turn left on to Generals Hwy. Drive 6.5 miles (10km) through Giant Forest. Turn right on to the Cave Road. Drive 6.5 miles (10km) to the parking area.

Black Chasm Cavern National Natural Landmark

Guests will view three chambers in the upper levels of this vertical cave where the most spectacular formations grow. A beautiful blue lake is located in the second chamber about 80 feet below the viewing platform. The cave is vertically oriented with 3 platforms and 5 flights of stairs. An experienced Cavern Naturalist will guide each group into the cave and explain the varied features of Black Chasm as well as the science of Speleology as it pertains to this remarkable cavern. 

California Cavern

Trail of Lakes Tour & Trail of Lights Tour meander over nearly level, well- light passages and walkways. There are approximately 6o steps throughout this tour. Experienced, professional guides lead groups into the “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.

Bower Cave – Bower Cave, perhaps most accurately described as a grotto, has been well-known to Indians for hundreds of years. People of the Me-Wuk culture called it “Oo-tin” or Home of the Evening Star. Just who among the early miners and settlers saw it first is a matter of dispute. One of the first known to have written about it was Belgian miner Jean-Nicolas Perlot, who lived in the vicinity in 1852-1857. Groveland Ranger District (HWY 120)– No permit required to view the cave. Entering the cave is prohibited.

Boyden Cavern, in the Kings River Canyon, is reached via state highway 180 from Fresno. It was discovered by a P.H. Boyden in 1907. After a steep five- minute walk to the cave’s entrance, tour guides lead visitors through the cave’s wonders on a 45-minute walk.

Moaning Cavern, near the tiny town of Vallecito, features archeological artifacts, with some skulls found here dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years. Visitors access a large vertical chamber here via a long spiral staircase. More adventurous visitors can choose to rappel the 165 feet to the bottom of the chamber. Adventurers can also choose to go on a strenuous, three-hour exploration of undeveloped sections of the cave.

Mercer Caverns is a mile north of Murphys off Sheep Ranch Road. Walter Mercer discovered these caves in 1885 when he was looking for water on a hot September day. Cold air blasted his legs, and he followed the air to the caves, which he excavated for public access by 1887. The temperature inside is a constant 55 degrees F.

Other Caves Near the Sierra

Subway Caves – Located North of Lassen Volcanic National Park

Explore the underground world of a lava tube. The self-guided trail is approximately 1/3 mile long and the cave is completely dark, so don’t forget to bring a flashlight.

The floor is rough and jagged so wear sturdy shoes. A light jacket will ward off the chill as the cave remains a cool 46 degrees F.  Neither hardhats nor crawling is required!

Pets are not allowed. Trailhead is located 1/4 mile north of the junction of State Routes 44 and 89. The community of Old Station is located 1/2 mile south of the trailhead.

Plutos Cave – Plumas National Forest – Off HWY 97 Near Weed Ca.

Pluto’s Cave is one of the main feeder tubes which carried most of the lava into the Shasta Valley.  The small domes of lava in the vicinity of the main entrance are called schollendomes and were formed when the tube was filed with lava to the point where fluid pressure caused an actual inflation of the flow, causing it to rise up, bulge and form the small domes.

The diameter of this cave is exceptionally large; larger than many of the major caves in the Hawaiian Islands.  Multiple lava flows are visible in the walls of Pluto’s Cave and can be identified by seeing the layered basalt which is fine grained at the base, and coarse textured and full of gas bubbles (vesicles) near the top.  The skylights along the length of the cave were formed as the lava cooled and collapsed.