Share:

Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring

07.07.17

Start Exploring
Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring

Share:

Advertisement
  • Light shows in Lehman Caves.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Light trails in the Ape Caves.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Skylight Cave in Oregon.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Boyd Cave.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Light painting in Fulford Cave.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Middle Cave Lake in Timpanogos Cave National Monument.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • The Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Caves in Snow Canyon State Park are solidified lava tubes.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • A lava tunnel with a collapsed roof.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Ice stalagmites in Arnold Ice Cave, Oregon.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Illuminated stalactites in Guler Ice Caves.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • In Lava River Cave, headlamps, flashlights, or rented lanterns are a must.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Hidden Forest Cave in Oregon.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
  • Hall of Giants in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.- Amazing Western Caves and Tips for Exploring
Article
Pro Contributor

Caves introduce an entirely new dimension to outdoor adventure. Darkness and confinement defy the senses as the earth is seemingly turned inside out and upside down, pinched and pulled into subterranean formations that rival anything on the surface in complexity of design.

The underground really is its own world, so exploring it requires different skills, gear, and mindset than most of us are used to. Of course, necessary experience and equipment varies with the difficulty and commitment level of each cave. Some of the destinations featured here are rather serious “wild” caves within which you will be truly on your own, but others are kept brightly lit and visited by guided tours.

What to Bring

If you venture into a cave on your own, here are a few helpful tips. The first thing to know is that caves are dark--obvious, yes--but artificial light is absolutely crucial to have in a cave. A dead lamp can make the difference between human life and death, so be sure to always have extra batteries and lights. Also, bring a watch. Without it, total blackness easily muddles all notion of time.

You should not enter a cave without protective clothing. Sturdy shoes are a must, because bare rock floors are almost always slippery with mud, water, or ice. Helmets are always a good idea, because low ceilings and sharp protrusions can jut in from all sides. If you do slip and fall, there is no such thing as a soft landing in a cave, so you must protect your noggin. Long pants, sleeves, and gloves are also good for fending off scrapes and bruises.

The depths of a cave can be surprisingly cold, so bring layers and dry clothes to change into. In cooler climates, inside temperatures may linger around freezing even during the heat of summer because cold winter air sinks and becomes trapped in the cave. This is why many caverns in the West are known as “ice” caves even though they are formed of rock. Water seeping from the walls freezes once exposed to the air.

Another common-sense fact that people too easily forget is that cell phones and GPS do not work in caves. If you get in trouble underground you are truly on your own. Be sure to always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you are tracking with a GPS, make sure to get an accurate point as close to the mouth of the cave as possible.

Most important to remember is that caves are fragile environments. Formations take millions of years to form and cannot be replaced once broken or defaced. Waste has nowhere to go inside a cave and does not readily degrade, so everything must be packed out. Practice general Leave No Trace ethics, but take them to an extreme in any cave environment. The organisms that live here are particularly sensitive to human interference, and damage to cave scenery is particularly evident to future visitors, so be responsible.

Where to Go

For a family-friendly adventure that requires no special expertise, try one of these destinations

For a more serious exploration that puts you in charge, gear up for one of these less-traveled caverns

#AdventureLikeYouGiveADamn

We believe good things come from people spending time outside. It’s about more than standing on the mountain top. It’s about nourishment and learning. It’s about protecting what sustains us. It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. LEARN MORE and share the pledge to Adventure Like You Give A Damn.

Advertisement
Published By

Published by

Pro Contributor
294 Adventures Explored
183 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info