Walking Cave Tours
X-Cave has two vertical joint passages that meander through a large layer of limestone, putting you up-close to beautiful cave formations. The name of this cave refers to the configuration of its passages which cross in the center of the cave to form the letter "X". Cave highlights include the Great Chandelier, the largest formation of stalactites in the cave, cave coral, and formation with such tell-tale names as the Giant Turkey, the Pipe Organ and Headache Rock.
Tour information: approximately 45 minutes, ¼ mile long, 75 stair steps and some narrow passages and stooping. During the Winter Months tours are available. See schedule for more details.
Cascade Cave is our longest scenic cave tour that is noted for its large chambers and many beautiful cave formations. A highlight of the tour is a 30-foot high underground waterfall as well as the Lake Room’s reflecting pool, the Cathedral in North Cave, and the Dance Hall where a previous owner held weekly dances.
Tour information: approximately 75 minutes, ¾-mile long, easy terrain with exception of over 250 stairs throughout the cave. During the Winter Months tours are available. See schedule for more details.
Saltpetre Cave is considered by many historians to be the site of the earliest industry in the area. The cave was used during the War of 1812 as a source of the major ingredient in making gunpowder, Saltpetre, and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Discover a fascinating segment of Kentucky’s history as you take a step back in time over 200 years ago.
Tour information: approximately 60 minutes, 1/2-mile long, flat walking, some stooping, approximately 30 stairs. Lantern tours of the cave are also offered several times a week. Tours available Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The black soot that covers the walls of the cave and the old tools and devices found in the cave suggest its historical significance and perhaps make it the most interesting cave of Carter Caves. An archeological review put it on the National Register of Historic Places as a cave that was mined for Saltpetre as early as the War of 1812. Saltpetre is one of the three key ingredients needed to make gunpowder.
The extreme dry, dusty conditions of the cave are due to the impermeable nature of the sandstone that covers practically the whole cave. Near the main entrance to the cave, where the sandstone does not overlay the cave, dome-pits have developed by the invading water from the surface. In a few places of this part of the cave, mineral-laden waters have been able to deposit some calcite formations. Overall the walls of the cave exhibit a dark, dingy color and the formations are dark due to the flames of torches and lanterns used in the cave in earlier days.
Saltpetre Cave is also a significant bat cave. The cave is believed to be the original hibernacula for large populations, possibly millions, of the endangered Indiana bats. Bat researchers believe the bats hibernating in Saltpetre Cave were disturbed during the mining operation and moved their winter sleeping grounds to Bat Cave. Due to the closures that took place in mid 1990’s and the microclimate restoration project, undertaken by Bat Conservation International, the number of hibernating Indiana Bats has risen from 400 to almost 10,000 bats.
Wild Cave Tours
Wild Cave Tours are NOT recommended for those who are pregnant, suffer from back or joint pain, are claustrophobic, cannot stoop, bend, crawl, or suffer from vertigo.
Bat Cave Walking Tour
Bat Cave is the longest cave found within the park. The Bat Cave Walking Tour is a wild cave tour, so the trip is considered rugged and strenuous. The cave is completely undeveloped, it is not electrically lit, and there are no handrails or steps. Plan to get wet and muddy on this tour. You must pass a squeeze test before you go on this tour. You must be at least 6 years old and an adult must accompany those under 15 years old. Guardians will need to sign waivers for children under 18yrs of age.
Tour information: approximately 2.5 hours, 2 miles long, prolonged stooping and bending, slick and muddy terrain, plan to get your feet wet, a duck walk is required for approximately 130 feet, a one mile hike above ground required on the return trip. Helmets and flashlights are provided for the tour. Tours available Memorial Day – Labor Day.
Bat Cave is currently the largest cave found in the park. It is an undeveloped cave that is best known as a hibernaculum for the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). During the winter, thousands of bats hibernate in this cave when the insects on which they feed are no longer available. These beneficial creatures, protected by law, pose no threat to humans and keep harmful insects in check. This is one of the largest colonies of this bat in the world, and because of the vulnerability of the Indiana bat to winter time disturbance, the cave is gated and closed to the public during the hibernating season. Bat Cave is made up of two levels of passages running parallel to one another. The main lower-level passage is a wide, underground conduit that was formed by solution along bedding planes. Large rooms along this passage, where the ceiling reaches 10.7 meters above the floor, have resulted from the collapse of the thin rock strata that forms the ceiling. A small stream, Cave Branch, flows through this passageway making it susceptible to flooding during periods of heavy rainfall. Debris, gravel, and mud-caked surfaces attest to this. The upper levels of the cave are drier, and some speleothem growth has occurred. Access to Bat Cave was uncontrolled up to 1974. The cave is now managed with bat friendly gates. The park works closely with Fish and Wildlife officials and Bat Conservation International in order to properly manage the significant Indiana Bat population.
These are the most adventurous and strenuous tours we offer. These tours will visit many small cave passages that require hand and knee crawls and in some instances belly crawls. Other cave passages will require prolonged stooping, bending and scrambling over slick rocks.
• You MUST be at least 12 years old and if under the age of 15 you must be accompanied by an adult.
• Guardians will need to sign waivers for children under 18 years of age.
• You must pass a squeeze test before you purchase your tickets.
• We will provide helmets, headlamps, coveralls, and kneepads.
• You should be wearing: hiking boots, shorts, and a t-shirt for under the coveralls.
Bat Cave Crawling Tour
Tour information: Approximately 3 hours. Bat cave is wild cave and completely undeveloped. This tour will have you crawling and walking through a lot of muddy and wet cave passages. You will spend much time crawling on your hands, knees and your belly. You will get very muddy and sloppy on this tour. This is considered a strenuous and rugged caving trip and may not be a good choice for some folks. Tours available Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Saltpetre Crawling Tour
Tour information: Approximately 3 hours. This tour will be both on the commercial routes of the cave and many of the wild unlit passages of the cave. You will be crawling both on your hands and knees and even doing some belly crawls through dry dusty passages during this tour. The cave is really cold, rocky and dusty. This is considered a strenuous and rugged caving trip and may not be a good choice for some folks. Tours available Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Caves Available For Self Exploration
Laurel Cave and Horn Hollow Cave
Two other caves worthy of note at Carter Caves are Laurel and Horn Hollow Caves. Laurel Cave (SEASONAL: May 1-Labor Day) is an undeveloped cave that is formed along a vertical joint. The downstream entrance is located alongside Cave Branch. The upstream end of the main passage is in Horn Hollow, an elevated valley that seldom has water flowing along the valley floor. Instead, the water is underground. Further upstream Horn Hollow Cave (OPEN year round) is found in this dry streambed. Water flows out of the entrance, forming a large pool that has a picture perfect reflection of the flora and fauna of the area. This is strictly an underground water conduit for Horn Hollow Creek. During periods of heavy rains the underground water conduit fills with water and you begin to see water running in the stream bed on the surface. Both Horn Hollow and Laurel Cave are prone to flooding and on occasion during the spring months and summer, flash floods occur. Laurel Cave is also home to several thousand Indiana Bats and is managed for these bats similar to Bat and Saltpetre Cave.
**REGULATIONS FOR SELF EXPLORATION CAVES**
Laurel Cave can only be visited from May 1-Labor Day
Horn Hollow Cave is open year round
You must obtain a permit from the Welcome Center to enter these two caves.
The permit is for Laurel & Horn Hollow Caves ONLY!!
Permits are available from 9:00 A.M. until 1 1/2 hrs before the Welcome Center closes.
You must have at least two people in your group.
Everyone in your group must have a flashlight and close toed shoes. (Cell phone LED lights DO NOT COUNT AS A LIGHT SOURCE!)
Permits my not be issued due to bad weather conditions & high water levels.
Littering or in any way defacing any natural feature will be considered an offense subject to prosecution.
Any clothing or object taken into these caves shall not be taken into another cave system outside of Carter Caves. This may help prevent spreading white nose syndrome through the bat community.
White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease that is killing 70-100% of hibernating bats in infected caves. WNS does not have any effect on humans, livestock or pets. WNS was found February 2013 in some of the Park Caves.
How You Can Help
Do not wear the shoes, clothing, or carry objects that you had with you while on a cave tour at Carter Caves into another cave system outside of the Carter Caves area unless they have been decontaminated.
Prohibited On Cave Tours
Because of the possibility of White-nose Syndrome contamination, the following are prohibited on cave tours:
Camera bags, tripods, strollers, backpacks, luggage, PETS, BAGS of any type, including purses, fanny packs, diaper bags, camera cases, etc. Sandals/flip-flops, etc. Please wear appropriate shoes that cover the entire foot for safety.
Bags containing necessary medical supplies are permitted.
Required Participant Decontamination Protocol
All cave touring participants at Carter Caves State Resort Park will be required to walk on bio-mats after exiting the cave tour. This process will require each individual to walk across the length of an outdoor carpet and across a bio mat containing water and possibly Lysol IC mixture. This process has been proven to help prevent the spread of spores. NOTE: Please review these procedures before you purchase any cave tour tickets as refunds cannot be issued at the Welcome Center. Thank you for your assistance with these procedures.