I can’t tell you how many times I saw commercials for “Luray Caverns – What Will You Discover?” growing up in Virginia. I can still hear the ad when I think about it! However, up until this year – I had never been. This autumn, we visited the caverns while on a mini vacation in Shenandoah.
Located just 11 miles from the Thornton Gap Entrance to Skyline Drive, Luray Caverns were discovered in 1878. These caverns are the largest in the eastern United States, and the most visited! After visiting myself, I understand why they are so popular.
The caverns are filled with different types of speleothems. These formations are made of calcite, a crystalline form of limestone.
It is such a surreal experience to walk through the underground maze, filled with unearthly looking formations of varying shapes. Some of the parts of the cave are 10 stories high – underground! Absolutely insane!
They have implemented new safety measures this year including enhanced sanitizing and mandatory face masks for visitors and employees. Visitors are asked to maintain six feet distance from others. The cavern is divided into a winding one-way walkway, so you won’t miss anything. The path can be narrow, but there are larger areas which allow for passing. We found it easy to stay distanced from the other visitors.
There are signs throughout the caverns, but it is worth reminding – do not touch the formations! These amazing stalactites and stalagmites were formed over millions of years! Just one inch of calcite can take 100 years to form.
One of my favorite parts of the caverns was Dream Lake – this crazy reflection pool which creates an optical illusion! Even knowing it is just a reflection, the more you look the more it doesn’t look like water at all. We stood staring at this section for quite some time.
Great Stalacpipe Organ
Towards the end of your tour, you will find the Great Stalacpipe Organ. An organ console sits in the caverns – producing sound by tapping the ancient stalagtites with rubber mallets. The thirty-seven naturally formed stalagtites which produce the sound resemble a traditional pipe organ, which is how it got the name “stalacpipe organ.”
I highly recommend visiting if you are near the area. It’s worth seeing at least once! The tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for kids. It’s not a bad activity on a rainy day either – the entrance to the caverns has some dripping water but once you are inside it’s dry.