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Caves in the Smokey Mountains

Sure, one of the more popular activities in the Smokies is taking a scenic hike to the top of a mountain. But have you ever considered taking a scenic hike under a mountain? We're not joking. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to a couple of unique attractions that take visitors deep into the heart of the earth. At Tuckaleechee Caverns and Forbidden Caverns, you may not be able to journey all the way to the center of the earth, but you can explore the many wonders of nature that are hidden below its surface.

Tuckaleechee Caverns, which is located near Townsend, and Forbidden Caverns - a few miles east of Sevierville - are both large, natural cave formations that are probably as old as the mountains themselves. Within them are a host of sights that are foreign to us "surface dwellers." Fascinating geological formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, chimneys and grottoes, are evidence of some of nature's most interesting handiwork.

Both locations also feature underground streams flowing through the caverns. The waters of Forbidden Caverns are believed to originate from a lake source deep within English Mountain. The stream within Tuckaleechee Caverns comes from a source located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

No matter which caverns you visit (why not try both?), your tour will be led by a guide, who will point out features of interest along the well-lighted paths. At Tuckaleechee Caverns, which has been given a Star Attraction rating by AAA, you'll travel as far as 450 feet below the surface on a tour that lasts an hour and a quarter. At Forbidden Caverns, you'll journey a half-mile into the recesses of English Mountain on a one-hour tour that is enhanced with special lighting effects and a stereophonic sound presentation.

A cavern adventure not only offers a fun lesson in geology, but history as well. The caverns at Tuckaleechee were discovered about 100 years ago and were opened as an attraction in 1953. Forbidden Caverns has been open since the late 1960s, and its tours include tales of those who occupied the site before it was an attraction, including Eastern Woodland Indians and moonshiners of the 1920s and '30s.

Tuckaleechee Caverns is open from early April through mid-November, while Forbidden Caverns is open from early April through late November, with a few additional operating days added near the end of the year. Interestingly, no matter what time of year you visit either caverns, the underground temperature remains a steady 58 degrees.

Forbidden Caverns
455 Blowing Cave Road
Sevierville, TN
(865) 453-5972
Tuckaleechee Caverns
825 Cavern Road
Townsend, TN
(865) 448-2274