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Caves have a really uncanny way of looking unearthly, all while being one of the most natural environments on Earth. Everything about the scenery found in the strangest caves in the world seems otherworldly—and to a point, that ethereal vibe even can be found when looking at typical caverns throughout the US.
That might be the reason why I'm mildly obsessed with the idea of living in a cave, exploring them, and just observing them in all their beauty. If you love taking a peek into the world underground, going on one of these cave hikes can be the trip you've been waiting to experience your entire life.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
If you're looking for one of the most breathtaking cave hikes in the United States, look no further than Mammoth Cave. This cave system is so massive, it doesn't even really have an address; it's just an area known as Mammoth Cave National Park.
That being said, this is one of the best national parks in America if you want to go spelunking or see absolutely massive caverns. What makes Mammoth Cave's hikes so awesome is that they let you explore the longest cave system in the world.
Mammoth also has a celebrated Gothic Avenue, a section of the cave decorated by Americans from the 19th century. Due to both the historic significance and the spectacular caving opportunities, this place was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns have a number of cave hikes that range from the mild to the more extreme—and all of them are impressive. With over 100 caves to be found in this network, explorers can find everything from underwater streams to wildlife that's never seen the light of day.
Most impressive, though, would have to be the Big Room. This sprawling cave "room" would make anyone feel miniscule and is well-worth the long walk it takes to get there. These caverns are a part of the National Park System, and tours are readily available for new cavers.
Meramec Caverns, Missouri
Sullivan, Missouri has one of the most visually stunning cave hikes outside of the National Park System—and you can find it in Meramec. This cave has seven layers of limestone and allegedly served as a hideout for the notorious criminal, Jesse James.
Though Jesse James may be gone, the attraction to this cave is not. These days, spectacular lighting setups and incredible stalagmite formations are what make it a place worthy of visiting again and again.
Ruby Falls, Tennessee
If you really love seeing insane cave interiors that look like they've created a world all their own, you will adore Ruby Falls. As the name suggests, this cave situated right outside of Chattanooga has an underground waterfall that's regularly lit up by colorful lights.
Few cave hikes in the world will be as surreal and striking as Ruby Falls thanks to its 145-foot waterfall drop. Go here, and you'll have your breath taken away by its natural beauty.
Kartchner Caverns, Arizona
Kartchner Caverns State Park is not just a typical cave park with typical cave hikes. It's legendary for having amazing cavescapes. This offers incredible cave hikes that feature formations as old as 200,000 years in age.
Major cave rooms, massive stalactites, and the largest rock column in Arizona make this an amazing place to see. Moreover, this is a living cave, which means that it's still shifting and evolving day after day.
Luray Caverns, Virginia
Right near Shenandoah Valley are the Luray Caverns, perhaps one of the most underrated cave systems in the Eastern half of the United States. Explorers who feel like taking a look at this cave system don't have to worry about getting their clothes or sneakers too dirty, as it's one of the easiest cave hikes on this list.
No matter what part of the cave you're in, you'll find something to add a new sense of wonder into your world. Dream Lake, for example, is famous for playing tricks on your eyes—and has gotten quite a bit of legends surrounding it as a result.
Natural Bridge Caverns, Texas
If you're a fan of seeing natural stalagmite formations and rock chandeliers hanging from cave ceilings, then you'll enjoy the cave hikes that you can experience at Natural Bridge Caverns. Shocker—this cave system got its name because it has a natural bridge inside of it.
Over the years, Natural Bridge Caverns has become a major tourist attraction, and it's easy to see why. It's a seriously pretty cave that's fun to explore, no matter what age you're at.
Jewel Cave, South Dakota
Everyone loves seeing glittering gemstones, right? That's exactly why people go to Jewel Cave in South Dakota. It's filled to the brim with beautiful crystals and amazing natural rock formations unlike the world has ever seen.
Along with having cave hikes of every difficulty level, visitors never have to worry about running out of places to explore here. This is the third-longest cave system in the world and has around 180 miles of passages inside. Expect great views, and amazing stories if you come here.
Blanchard Springs Caverns, Alabama
Blanchard Springs Caverns might be one of the shorter cave hikes on here, but it's impressive nonetheless. This cave is mainly broken up into two main rooms: the Cathedral Room and the Coral Room.
The Coral Room is made of pure white calcite, and looks like the kind of place you'd expect to see on another planet. Meanwhile, the Cathedral Room is so large, it has an almost unending feeling to it. More specifically, it's about the length of three football fields, and it has a cathedral-like ceiling to match.
Craighead Caverns, Tennessee
Sweetwater's own Craighead Caverns remains one of the most mesmerizing cave hikes out there—and also has its own unique claim to fame. This cave has beautiful winding passages, but the hiking opportunities itself aren't what make this such an epic visit.
Craighead Caverns happens to be home to the largest non-glacial underwater lake in the United States. Aptly called "the Lost Sea," this cave lake is home to half of the world's collection of anthodites, a rock formation known more commonly as "cave flowers."