7 Tennessee Caves to Explore

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With more than 8,000 documented caves, Tennessee offers plenty of spelunking opportunities for both novice and experienced cave explorers. In fact, Tennessee is home to more caves than any other state, according to the National Caves Association.

Most of Tennessee’s caves line up along the west side of the Appalachian mountain chain in East Tennessee, though caves can also be found sprinkled around Middle Tennessee. While many are located on private property and can be explored only with permission from the owner, several others are open to the public for tours.

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Forbidden Caverns Cave, Sevierville, Tennessee

Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, TN

Forbidden Caverns

A cool 58 degrees year round, Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville offers a welcome respite from the summer heat – that is, if you don’t mind keeping company with American brown bats, cave spiders, crickets, frogs and plenty of slippery salamanders.

Opened to the public in 1967, the limestone cave attracts nearly 70,000 visitors annually during its eight-month season, which runs from April through November.

“People are intrigued by things they haven’t seen – it creates mystery,” says Bob Hounshell, general manager of Forbidden Caverns. “Caves especially attract nature lovers and people who like the out-of-doors.”

Forbidden Caverns draws its name from an ancient Indian legend that tells of the Indian Princess Nutah, who was trapped in the cave. When the princess died, Indians believed angry gods closed the gates to the mountain forever.

A tour of Forbidden Caverns leads visitors 600 feet below the mountain and reveals striking formations. Huge stalactites hang from the cave ceiling, and giant stalagmites grow upward from the floor.

Though the formations entice visitors to touch, touching generally isn’t allowed, because oil from human fingers causes the centuries-old formations to stop growing. “Our goal is to preserve, protect and keep the cave as pristine as possible while letting people enjoy it,” Hounshell says.

Forbidden Caverns is located on Blowing Cave Road off U.S. Highway 411, about 15 miles east of Sevierville. For more information, visit forbiddencavern.com or call 865-453-5972.

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  1. James Croisant

    March 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    There is a cave with a town named after it somewhere near Boone lake. I think it was Woyer or something like that but now I can’t find it. Any ideas?

    • Jessy Yancey

      March 5, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Hi James,

      I believe you’re thinking of Worley’s Cave, aka Morrill Cave, in the Bluff City area. Hope this helps!

      Jessy Yancey
      Tennessee Home & Farm

  2. Barry Newman

    November 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Hi- just a bit of reminiscing, and wondering: I used to go camping with friends a short distance off of I 40 in eastern Tennessee (over 35 years ago). It was on private property, and the cave was over half way up a 3000 foot hill/mountain. The cave opened to the eastern side of the slope and had a moderate entrance with an easy walk down to a larger chamber with about five different exits going deeper into the mountain. There was a pool with running water that we used for our water supply. Another 1000 feet up the mountain was a rather steep climb ending on a flat mountain top that was great for camping except for the numerous burned out trees that clearly were from repeated lightning strikes. great views of the area, but despite having been there a couple of times (friends knew the place) I can’t remember at all where it was. Ring any bells?

    • Jessica

      April 12, 2018 at 12:42 am

      Hampton, TN?

  3. Janice

    February 21, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    I went to a restraurant inside a cave with water around it with paddle boats sometime in late 1960’s near Dickson TN or maybe Loudon, Tn. Any idea where or name of it.

    • Em

      March 10, 2016 at 10:35 am

      I think you are talking about The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN.

  4. Janice Crane

    February 21, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I went to a restraurant inside a cave with water with paddle boats winding around inside . Late 1960’s near Dickson. TN or maybe Loudon, TN anyone else remember? Name and location?

    • Stephanie Rivers

      November 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      I remember that too! It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

  5. Em

    March 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

    I think you are talking about The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN

  6. elizabeth gallagher

    May 31, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    just received Farm & Home magazine, Tennesee Summer, love the article on the Warren county’s Cumberland Caverns I have been there to visit and it was beautiful. There is one correction on the chandelier it comes from Brooklyn Metropolitan Movie House which I spend many a Saturday night dates seeing a movie. When it closed I never knew where the chandelier went until I visited the caves with a friend from Brooklyn and there it was. I want to thank Tennessee folk for putting it into a wonderful setting and to tell you that you have good taste.

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  8. Alice Carroll

    February 10, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Wow, just the mere sight of that photo of the Forbidden Caverns makes me want to plan out a trip to Tennessee this coming summer after not being able to use my vacation leaves at work. I especially like the fact that the tour covers a lot of ground within the mountain as it will be quite the adventure for my nephew and niece. I hope we can visit soon and even visit other destinations like Sevierville.


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