Our Hometown Tourists Visit Calaveras County's Caves and Caverns

Sacramento resides in the heart of a fabulous tourist area. Beyond our immediate city boundaries, within a one- to two-hour drive, are myriad destinations to explore and enjoy. Just southeast of Sacramento is Calaveras County with several fantastic limestone caverns.  Each one is unique in its own way and all are worth exploring. I (Cindy) have had a fascination with caves since my youth and have visited many throughout the United States. To have a rich and plentiful supply of caverns to explore so close to Sacramento is a luxury many cave fans don’t have. So I recently went on a day trip to explore a couple of the caves. There are so many and so close together you can easily do two or three in one day. Plan ahead, go early and get there when they open. Stay until they close.

The caves are alive and well, and they continue to grow. If you remain quiet, you can hear some eerie sounds. Condensation and water drip from the ceilings and you hear the kerplunk of the drops of water.  In some, when there are strong winds, you can hear the moaning sounds of the wind across the opening of the cavern. 

Caves are filled with various formations that give them an otherworldly landscape with a prehistoric feeling. These formations are varying sizes and shapes. The stalactites come down and the stalagmites grow up.  When they meet each other they create columns. But wait, there’s more. Besides stalactites and stalagmites there are soda straws, helictites, and flowstones of ribbons and domes. When they flow down the sides of the caverns they look like petrified waterfalls.

Cave formations come in different colors depending on the mineral deposits found in the limestone.  They are not all muddy murky browns. They are colorful. Some have brilliant white domes, columns and flows. There are ribbons of orange, red and brown the shades of cooked bacon that dangle from the ceiling.  But to enjoy the colors the light must shine on them. Deep down in the depths of the cave no light penetrates and pitch black takes on a new meaning. When the lights are out you learn what it really means to be blind. The early explorers had only light from the flicker of a single candle. The shadows from the flickering light would play tricks on your mind and you can imagine the cavern formations taking on life. Each formation earning a nickname of what they look like.

How I envy the explorations of discovering a new cave.  The first wonder and discovery of a large room underground with the stalactites and stalagmites must have been exhilarating. 

Being claustrophobic really isn’t an issue, unless you want to go spelunking, crawling on your belly through crevasses just large enough to fit through. 

Being afraid of heights isn’t an issue, unless you want to go rappelling. 

The vast majority of caves have decent walking paths, but a lot of stairs and ladders. Caverns welcome the young, old and every age in between. If you’re not sure about one cave’s accessibility, there are always others to choose from that won’t be as difficult.

On my recent excursion I took in two caves. Can you guess which ones I visited?  Check out the formations and see if you can figure it out. Head down and visit one, two, or plan on several trips and take them all in. As you make your tourist home base in Sacramento, this easy drive into Calaveras County to go caving, rappelling, or for the more adventurous spelunking. Click here for more information about Calaveras Country cave and caverns.