If you're planning a trip to California, and you want to\nfind some of the most amazing caves to explore, be prepared to have to make\nsome choices. With so many caves, where do you go? Where do you start? That is\nwhy we developed this guide to Caving in California. \n\n\n\nWhere should I go caving in California? We recommend the following caves for your caving explorations in California: \n\n\n\nLocationCoordinatesLava Beds National Monument 41\u00b0 42\u2032 50\u2033 N, 121\u00b0 30\u2032 30\u2033 WBlack Chasm Caverns 38\u00b0 43' 22" N, 120\u00b0 62' 62" WCalifornia Caverns 38\u00b0 12\u2032 10.34\u2033 N, 120\u00b0 30\u2032 31.85\u2033 WLake Shasta Caverns 40\u00b0 48\u2032 16.2\u2033 N, 122\u00b0 18\u2032 15.98\u2033 WMercer Caverns 38\u00b0 9\u2032 5\u2033 N, 120\u00b0 28\u2032 42\u2033 WMoaning Cave 38\u00b0 4\u2032 8.44\u2033 N, 120\u00b0 27\u2032 57.7\u2033 WPinnacles National Monument 36\u00b0 29\u2032 13\u2033 N, 121\u00b0 10\u2032 1\u2033 W\n\n\n\nIf you're interested in getting into caving, be sure to check out my Beginners Guide and recommended gear section. We\u2019ll help you select your adventure and give you lives to get there. The rest is up to you. \n\n\n\nCaving in California\n\n\n\nSpelunking is a California adventure that occurs in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are several caves from the Northern Tip of the Sierra Nevada\u2019s down to the southern border in Los Angeles, Ca. That is over 400 miles of mountainous areas for exploration. With a width of 70 miles on average between the western and eastern Sierra Nevada Borders, that means that there are over 28,000 Square miles of deep trench mountains to explore for caves. \n\n\n\nAside from those caves in the Sierra Nevada Mountain\nregions, there are the caves in the coastal mountains. The Santa Cruz area is\nhome to some famous caves such as the Mystery Spot (Where gravity is defied) as\nwell as some other great adventures for cave dwellers. \n\n\n\nThis map shows ten good caves in California and locations. However, California has over one 1,000 known caves, so for some of them, you will have to ask around for directions. There are undoubtedly other caves that have yet to be discovered.\n\n\n\nTypes of Caves in California\n\n\n\nCalifornia has the most major kinds of cave systems, with\nLava Tube and Solution caves being the most prevalent. \n\n\n\nSome of the cave types you might run across include:\n\n\n\nLava Tubes\u2014created by lava flowing through rocksBoulder Caves\u2014boulder caves are not a type so much as a description of where they can be found. The Talus Caves are an example of a boulder cave.Solution caves. These are formed in rocks such as limestone or other carbonate rocks by the water.Sea Caves. These occur when waves crash against a rocky wall and create an opening in the earth\u2019s plate.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThese are the caves we recommend\n\n\n\nLava Beds National Monument \n\n\n\nThe lava Beds National Monument is probably one of the more\nwell-known cave parks in California. It is home to 800+ Lava caves in\nCalifornia. Regardless of your experience level, you can find a cave to explore\nhere. \n\n\n\nThe Medicine Shield Volcano formed the Lave beds. The ava\ncools, and the outside of the rock formation stays while the inside of the lava\ntube empties, creating a lava tube or cave. Over time water can then get into\nthese lave tubes and cause further erosion. \n\n\n\nWhen Visiting the Lava Beds National Monument, keep in mind\nthat many of these caves already have trails in them. They are all maintained\nby the National Park Service, and the trails are there for a reason (mainly\nyour safety). \n\n\n\nThe Lava bed National Monument is located between Siskiyou\nand Modoc counties in Northern California. It covers 46,692 acres of land,\nwhich is approximately 73 square miles. You can view the location on the map at these\ncoordinates 41\u00b042\u203250\u2033N\n121\u00b030\u203230\u2033W\n\n\n\nThese are some caves in the park. \n\n\n\nEasy MediumHard MushpotGolden Dome Labyrinth SentinelSunshine Lava Brook ValentineIndian Well Hopkins Chocolate SkullBalcony Juniper MerrillBlue Grotto Catacombs Heppe Thunderbolt Ovis\n \n Hercules Leg\n\n\n\nIf you want to see how lava tubes are formed, check out this video. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nBlack Chasm Caverns\n\n\n\nThe tour only covers three rooms, but for the price, it is a fantastic cavern to visit. The Black Chasm Cavern is one of the few caves that grow helictites. The view is excellent, and it is a must-see on your California trip. \n\n\n\nThe Black Chasm is located at GPS coordinates 38.43226\nN 120.62625 W. in Amador County. It is an excellent stop on the way to Lake\nTahoe. This set of Caves brings out the\nhistorical value of the caves and the gold rush. \n\n\n\nOn the main\ntour, you cannot bring any food or drinks (Including Water), or excess camera equipment.\nPets are also not allowed (including emotional support animals) or walking\nsticks. The park will not let you take the tour if you need those.\n\n\n\nThe 50-minute\ntour is guided. You get to explore three sections of the massive cave dwelling.\nThere are a ton of stairs on this tour, so you wouldn\u2019t be able to bring a\nwheelchair either. One thing to remember is that the temperature inside this\ncave is always 58 degrees regardless of the outside temperature. \n\n\n\nIf you\u2019re interested in visiting, you can check out this video.\n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=8FhE3c8cT0k\n\n\n\n\nCalifornia Caverns \n\n\n\nThe Famous California Caverns have the longest stretch of caverns to explore. There are over two and a half miles of underground caverns to explore in the California caverns. These caves offer a variety of tours, depending on what time of year it is. They do close for some part of the year as the caves are not accessible due to the weather in Calaveras County. \n\n\n\nOn tour itself, you will see different colored formations and shapes. There are even some musical rocks in the cave on tour. Located at 38\u00b0 12\u2032 10.34\u2033 N, 120\u00b0 30\u2032 31.85\u2033 W in Calaveras county it is easy to spend an entire week in this area alone! \n\n\n\nThe area is Pet-Friendly, so you can bring your pets to the\ncabins but not on the cave tours themselves. These tours are kid-friendly, and\nthey even have tours specially designed for children. The two-hour Mammoth Cave\ntour is intended for ages eight and up. \n\n\n\nThere is a four hour \u201cMiddle Earth Expedition.\u201d The Middle\nearth tour digs in and lets your natural explorer shine. If you are afraid to\nget dirty, then stay away from this tour. All in all, you will weave through eight separate\nchambers in total for an experience that will last a lifetime. \n\n\n\nCheck out this video highlighting the best features of the California Caverns.\n\n\n\nLake Shasta Caverns\n\n\n\nIf you like boat rides, good. That\u2019s the only way to get to the Lake Shasta Caverns. Your first step is to hop on a boat and take the short journey across the lake, followed up with a pleasant bus ride to the top of the mountain. \n\n\n\nShasta County, California, is home to a volcano located atop\nof Mount Shasta. The Caverns at Lake\nShasta are over 200 million years old and was at one point an entrance-less\ncave. \n\n\n\nThe area was explored by locals up until 2012 when it was declared a national natural landmark. The location of the Lake Shasta Caverns is 40\u00b0 48\u2032 16.2\u2033 N, 122\u00b0 18\u2032 15.98\u2033 W; you will not be disappointed on this tour. The Caverns have many preserved finds, such as fossils from 270 million years ago. \n\n\n\nThe tour is more modern, meaning that they offer more\namenities than other trips, such as dinner on the lake for groups of 50 people\nwith Tables. The Lake Shasta Caverns are home to flowstones, which naturally\noccur in solution caves. \n\n\n\nHere is a neat video about the Lake Shasta Caverns. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=jAyoI99CPiU\n\n\n\n\nMercer Caverns\n\n\n\nThese caverns are also located in Calaveras County, close to\nthe town of Murphy. The Caves were names after a Gold Prospector named Mercer. The caverns have beautiful formations, including\naragonite in the lower levels of the caves. \n\n\n\nThe Caves have an exciting history dating back thousands of\nyears and has been known for their exciting finds. There were six skeletons\ndiscovered that are believed to belong to the Mi-Wuk Tribe of Native Americans\nfrom almost 2,000 years prior. \n\n\n\nThe Cave was believed to have started as a result of an\nearthquake causing a rupture in the ground. Then over time, water could form\nunique formations such as the \u201cCave Twins\u201d that look almost human. The Cave twins are touchable, so you can feel\nhow a stalagmite would feel without damaging the interior of the cave. \n\n\n\nThe Mercer Caverns are located at the coordinates: 38\u00b0 9\u2032 5\u2033 N, 120\u00b0 28\u2032 42\u2033 W for a quick map view. If you want to view the map of the Caverns themselves, you can see it here. You may want to bring your headlamp for this tour, especially if you plan on doing any exploring on your own. \n\n\n\nHere is a neat Video of Mercer Caverns.\n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=uUdp-213Ick\n\n\n\n\nMoaning Cave\n\n\n\nThe Deepest Cave in California is a fun adventure to go on. You will climb down a sixteen-story spiral staircase to the bottom. The cave was named because of its unique capability to create sounds when water drips into \u201cMoaning Holes.\u201d The Moaning Cave should be on your stop, especially if you are close by at Mercer Caverns. \n\n\n\nYou can go on an expedition tour that will take you through\nthe adverse areas of the cave. You are equipped with only a headlamp and a rope,\nand this adventure is only available for ages 12 and up. They do have \u201cearly exits\u201d if you run into\nproblems in this cave, and you can make reservations for up to eight people on\nthis expedition. \n\n\n\nIf you have young children, there is a gemstone mining and\nGold Panning event where the kids can screen the flume for gemstones and gold.\nYou can also purchase them at the Gift shop (We think it\u2019s more fun to find\nthem though). \n\n\n\nIt is just a short drive away from the Mercer Caverns in Murphy. If you wanted to view the Moaning Cave on a map, the coordinates are 38\u00b0 4\u2032 8.44\u2033 N, 120\u00b0 27\u2032 57.7\u2033 W. One of the best attractions at this cave site is the zip line and rock-climbing exhibit outside. \n\n\n\nCheck out the Moaning Cavern Adventure Park.\n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=iOpAGVvJFWU\n\n\n\n\nPinnacles National Monument\n\n\n\nThe Pinnacles National Monument is a perfect stop for a central coast trip. It was formed by a volcano that moved out! The original volcano moved over two hundred miles away after forming these massive pinnacles. \n\n\n\nThe Talus caves are rare and unique as you wind and weave\nthrough the fantastic maze only to arrive at towering pinnacles. You will see a\nplethora of wildlife in this park, from condors to thirteen different species\nof bats. The best times to visit this\nsite are the spring and fall seasons, as the weather is mildly perfect. \n\n\n\nThe national park service runs the Pinnacles National\nMonument, so the general rules apply there when exploring. You can always check the status of the cave\nopenings on their website. You will need a flashlight even in the daytime to\nexplore this cave. There are several stairs that you will have to climb using\nonly your flashlight. \n\n\n\nThere is a lot to do in this park if you are planning a camping trip. You don\u2019t want to forget your Tent on this trip. One day is not enough time to explore everything. You can get a sneak peek at the Pinnacles National Monument on a map with these coordinates 36\u00b0 29\u2032 13\u2033 N, 121\u00b0 10\u2032 1\u2033 W. \n\n\n\nYou can watch the exploration video here. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=EZFkEsIsZi8\n\n\n\n\nCrystal Cave\n\n\n\nThere are five distinguishable caves tours to go on in the Crystal Caves. You are going to want to book the tour you want to go on in advance. The spots fill up rather quickly, and most weekends are full. July and August are the best months to visit, especially for the Candlelight Tour. You cannot buy any tickets at the cave; you must purchase them either online or at the Foothills Visitors center. \n\n\n\nThere is no Flash photography or tripod photography allowed,\nyou can take personal photos with your cellphone, but you cannot use any\naccessories to take the pictures (Including Selfie Sticks). The Drive up is excellent as you will get to\nsee the Large Sequoia trees that are thousands of years old. \n\n\n\nThere are a few lodges and restaurants in the park as well,\nso you can make a day of it. There are over 200 caves in the Sequoia National Park,\nand this is the one to see. The marble ceiling and the \u201ccrystals\u201d hanging from\nthem are just a sight never to forget. \n\n\n\nDon\u2019t forget your Flashlight on this journey, although it is guided, there are minimal cave lights inside the cave. You can get a glimpse of the cave on a map by using the coordinates 36\u00b0 35\u2032 22.03\u2033 N, 118\u00b0 49\u2032 32.29\u2033 W. \n\n\n\nYou can get a pre-glimpse here. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=W59Uzps9QK8&pbjreload=10\n\n\n\n\nBoyden Cavern\n\n\n\nThe Deepest Canyon in the United States is located right in\nthe Golden State. The King's Gate, as it is known, is a set of two towering\n2,000-foot high marble walls. They are astonished to view; the underground\ncavern is a 50-minute tour suitable for all ages. This Cave is a mild tour and\nnot too extensive, but it is a good steep hike. \n\n\n\nThe Boyden Cavern is managed by the Forestry service and not the National Park Service. You do not need to make any reservations for this tour, and it is open most days between 10 am and 5 pm. You can book a trip through the touring company if you like here. They only give tours on the last Friday in April through mid-November. \n\n\n\nWhat is unique about the Boyden Cave is the shield and\npendant formations of the flowstones. Boyden cavern is also one of the few\ncaves that have Helictites inside. Along with a variety of other Flowstones in\nwhat is known as the Drapery room. \n\n\n\nYou can Find Boyden Cavern in the Central valley not too far away from Crystal Caves. If you wanted to grab a look on a map beforehand, the coordinates are 36\u00b0 48\u2032 53.8\u2033 N, 118\u00b0 49\u2032 5.37\u2033 W. The Forestry Service is usually pet-friendly if they are on a leash. \n\n\n\nThis video will give you an idea of what Boyden Cavern looks Like. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=JQFJ8znGP4s\n\n\n\n\nMitchell Caverns\n\n\n\nThese Caverns are in the very hot Mojave Desert in\nCalifornia. They are in the middle of the desert, which is what makes them so\namazing. You don\u2019t want to enter the caves without a guide as it can be easy to\nget turned around. There are some narrow passages in this cave as well, so\nhaving a guide would also help ensure your safety. \n\n\n\nThis tour is hard to get, so you want to check in advance to make sure that you can acquire tickets. They are open year-round; however, don\u2019t fret if you forgot. You can still try to get in on a tour that is not fully booked. You can either call them or book your tickets online here. \n\n\n\nThe best times to visit this cavern are October and\nNovember; The temperature will generally be in the 60\u2019s at this time of year. You\nwill also encounter some unique desert plants, such as Juniper, Yucca, and\nBarrell Cactus. \n\n\n\nYou want to wear long jeans in this part of the country and high boots, as this area of California is home to Rattlesnakes. You can preview the mountain area on a map by entering the Coordinates: 34\u00b0 56\u2032 26.97\u2033 N, 115\u00b0 30\u2032 51.97\u2033 W . It is a long and windy road to the camp, and you may even feel lost, but you will get there eventually. \n\n\n\nYou can get a preview here. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=PG_dJK9jgA8\n\n\n\n\nSunny Jim\u2019s Cave\n\n\n\nThis Cave is an Honorable Mention on the cave stop. There\nare two entrances to the Caves; if you go into the store, there is a small\nentrance that allows you to enter one of the Chambers. They are easy to enter\nthan most other caves. You don\u2019t need much experience or even Physical fitness\nto be able to climb down the Stairs. \n\n\n\nIt is about 140 steps to the bottom, and because it is a sea\ncave, there is water at the bottom of the steps. If you go to the caves by sea,\nyou get to explore all eight chambers with a Canoe, which can be mighty\nfascinating. The historical tale is that this was an old Bootleggers cave\ncarved out to smuggle Alcohol. \n\n\n\nYou may be able to get a nice preview by viewing these Coordinates 32.8497\u00b0 N, 117.2699\u00b0 W; however, the best visit Is the one you take in person. Encyclopedia Americana Listed this stop as a must-see for any Californian trip. \n\n\n\nThis Cave expedition is on the lighter side, it can be a\nlittle narrow going down, but it's not bad. The stairs are well lit, and there\nis usually always someone else nearby. Just be careful not to slip on the wet\nstairs. \n\n\n\nYou can get an idea of what the shop and journey down is like here. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=ytcDpyzPRx4\n\n\n\n\nThe Subway Cave \n\n\n\nThis Lava Tube Cave is close to the Shasta area. The Subway\ncave was formed by a volcanic eruption and is in an area that was known to have\nvolcanic activity less than 20,000 years ago. The Hat Creek Flow had erupted\nand left large lava tubes on the earth. \n\n\n\nThis attraction is inside the Lassen national forest and is\nless than a half-mile hike through the lava tube. The half-domed shape is\nconsistent throughout the entire walk, and after leaving the stairs, you will\nneed a flashlight. \n\n\n\nThe Subway Cave would be considered an easy hike and is not\nfor someone looking for anything seriously underground. The Subway Cave is an\nexcellent stop to say that you have been there. It is also the perfect\nadventure for smaller children being introduced to caving. \n\n\n\nLassen park can be located on the map at 40.6228\u00b0 N, 121.3959\u00b0 W \n\n\n\nThe Millerton Caves\n\n\n\nThis guide would not be complete without at least one\nnon-touristy cave. The Millerton caves are a local favorite in the central\nvalley. They are on a closed system, and\nthere is no tour guide for this adventure. You are going to need more than a\nheadband light and a first aid kit. You may want to bring all your gear for\nthis one. This adventure is for experienced cavers only, there is no rescue\nguide, and help is miles away. \n\n\n\nThe Millerton caves were carved out of the granite from the San Juaquin River and rain flow. The narrow passages are not accessible in the winter season because the rain is busy carving out more of the rock. You can view pictures of the inside of the cave here.\n\n\n\nThe Exact Coordinates are unknown for this specific cave entrance; however, it is rumored to be around this area: 37\u00b0 5' 28.5600" N 119\u00b0 33' 25.1399" W. The most likely spot is 37.083129, -119.543615. It is a bit of a hike. However, Mr. Rayholt points to a place located here: 37.065950, -119.557879. Both sites are relatively close to each other. You can check out Rays' directions here and map it out for yourself. \n\n\n\nNot only is this a non-touristy cave, but it is a rare cave as well. Granite caves are smooth and created solely by water erosion. The cave has three main chambers that are about a mile and a half long in total. KVPR did a beautiful story on this cave system in the central valley here. \n\n\n\nHere is a neat video of the Millerton Caves. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=VrHRA-gZXOQ\n\n\n\n\nCaving Softly \n\n\n\nCaving Softly has more to do with respecting mother nature\nthan footsteps. It means making sure that we minimize our\nimpact on the caves.\n\n\n\nWildlife such as bats, as well as insects, call those caves\nhome. Leaving food crumbs behind can\ncreate an imbalance in the food chain of a cave. Since there are fewer animals that make caves\ntheir homes, it doesn\u2019t take as much to have a negative impact on the wildlife\nthat lives there. \n\n\n\nAlong with not leaving your trash behind, don\u2019t leave your waste either. Use the restrooms provided by the national parks. If you are exploring a cave without facilities, try to use some before you arrive. You can also look into camping gear such as a Travel John or a Biffy Bag. These items are entirely sanitary and have little to no impact on the environment. \n\n\n\nFinally, don\u2019t disturb closed off areas in the caves. They can either be dangerous, have wildlife\nthat needs to be protected, or contains artifacts that should not be\ndisturbed. Also, you want to operate in\na manner that protects the cave and wildlife. It\u2019s refreshing to take pictures,\nbut that is all you should take out of a cave. \n\n\n\nYou can read more about Caving Softly here. \n\n\n\nFinal Thoughts\/Conclusion\n\n\n\nSpelunking is a fun and adventurous hobby that is different\nevery time you go. No matter how many times you have explored a cave, there is\nalways something new to find, whether it be a new stalactite or a nook you\nswear wasn\u2019t there last time. \n\n\n\nThere is nothing that can beat a good spelunking trip in California. With over 800 Lava Tubes to explore in the Lava Beds National Park. You could spend a good part of a decade in that park alone and still not see everything. Some of the larger cave systems are fun to see and explore. No matter what area you choose to visit, you can find a cave nearby. Happy Spelunking! \n\n\n\n\u201cEverywhere You Hang Your Hat is Home. Home is The Bright Cave Under the Hat.\u201d Lance Morrow \n\n\n\nWhen you\u2019re ready to get started caving, be sure to read my Beginners Guide and check out my recommended gear section.