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More about the Cave

Shenandoah Caverns has thrilled visitors from around the world since it opened in 1922. Groups, families and people from all walks of life come to discover a world of breathtaking natural wonders, incredible geology and extraordinary crystalline formations waiting to be admired and photographed.

History of Shenandoah Caverns

The history of Shenandoah Caverns is intertwined with that of the beautiful and historic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the Native Americans who once populated and traversed the Valley.

Most caverns in the Shenandoah Valley formed as water trickled through tiny cracks in the stone, dissolving the lime, enlarging the cracks. The cracks became crevices, then channels, and finally, tunnels. The formation of Shenandoah Caverns was a bit different. Shenandoah Caverns' spectacular formations resulted from this movement of water, but, as the great inland sea receded, violent earthquakes also created faults that hastened and changed the caverns' formation.

Bacon Formations

The beautiful flowstone, unique bacon formations and the thousands of stalactite and stalagmite formations are the result of water moving through limestone, picking up infinitesimal amounts of lime and depositing it inside the cavern.

The coloring of the cavern comes from pigments of iron, magnesium and other minerals through which the water seeps. 

A crevice caused by a blast during construction of the Valley Division of the Southern Railway in 1884 allowed vapor to escape and aroused the curiosity of several youths in the area.  With a rope, the daring boys descended through the fissure to a depth of 150 feet. They thought they might find water, but instead, their flickering candles revealed caverns of such size and beauty that they hurried back to the surface to share the news of their discovery.

caverns staircase

While one of the greatest wonders of the natural world had been discovered that day, it wasn’t until later that an effort was made to determine the extent of the caverns.  Even then, the crude illumination available to the two explorers didn’t allow them to appreciate fully the wonders beneath Cave Hill.

Development of Shenandoah Caverns began in 1921, and in 1922, they opened to the public using the original 79 stairs. The elevator was installed in 1931. 

A hotel opened on the site of the caverns’ entrance and attracted travelers by automobile, bus, and train.  Air conditioning was provided using the naturally cool caverns’ air. The upper floor of the hotel was consumed by fire in 1957.Today, the second floor of the caverns’ lodge is home to the unique attraction, Main Street of Yesteryear, a collection of antique, animated window displays. These are the same displays families used to see when they visited Main Street department stores at holiday time.

Shenandoah Caverns Pixie


The pixie first appeared at Shenandoah Caverns in the mid-1960s as a billboard and brochure logo, inviting tourists to “Come and See, Follow Me.” Our friendly pixie can still be found around the caverns lodge, in the caverns themselves, and, now, on our web site!

Shenandoah Caverns Cafe

After a cool tour of the caverns, put some sizzle back in your summer with a tasty BLT or Cheeseburger and Fries at the Caverns Cafe. Drop a nickel in the antique Seeburg jukebox and hear tunes like "It's a wonderful life" by Louis Armstrong and "Yesterday" by the Beatles.  Sit at the counter and sip a homemade cherry coke, milk shake or root beer float at our 1957 original soda fountain!

 There are less than 200 operational Bastian-Blessing fountains in the U.S.  In the 50's, there used to be over 100,000!  Bring your friends and family over to enjoy a very special thing of the past...


The Caverns Gift Shop

Caverns Gift shop

At Shenandoah Caverns, we want you and your friends to have fun!  There is something for everyone to enjoy and we hope you will create memories that last a lifetime when you visit. 

The Caverns gift shop is a very special place.  It has been open to the public since 1922! We sell lots of Virginia Ham and Honey, along with many other popular items. A favorite in the summer time is our Caverns Coolers, now available in Root Beer, Black Cherry, Orange, Grape, Apple and Cream Soda flavors.  Our Shenandoah Caverns Coolers water source won the bronze medal at the Berkley Springs International Water Tasting contest, widely regarded as the Olympics of Water!

Gift shop

At the caverns shop you’ll find rocks, minerals, Amethyst Cathedrals, clothing, Virginia ham and honey, and unique food items with a local Shenandoah Valley flavor. 

Related Pages

Directions, Schedule, and Rates for the Shenandoah Caverns family of attractions
Learn more about the unique formations in Shenandoah Caverns - past dates

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