If you drive along I-81, the “spine” of Virginia, it’s hard to miss the billboards advertising various cavern attractions. I’ve seen them many times over the decades that I’ve been up and down that road, but never stopped to visit.
Until a couple of weeks ago, when I joined a Smithsonian day trip to descend into Skyline Caverns in Front Royal and Endless Caverns near New Market with an expert on caving. With a stop at the Cave Ridge Vineyard for lunch, because why not?.
While both are limestone caves that have been set up for tourists, they are still very different experiences. Basically, Skyline is the better presentation while Endless is a more interesting exploration. Both are worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.
Here are a few images from the day, with more in this gallery. The photo at the top is a room in Skyline called Mirror Lake, with lighting and very still waters that makes for some interesting reflections.
The lighting, of course, is not natural. But the creative use of colors in Skyline Caverns makes for a very interesting display of the rock formations.
Endless Caverns has a more raw feeling to it, like you could be the first person to have come through here. Of course, those explorers used candles and did a lot of crawling rather than walking along the paths that us tourists now use.
The story told by guides at Endless Caverns claims that this is the first room discovered by some boys who chased a rabbit down a hole in 1879. Whether or not you buy that tale, the space is still amazing.
Just what you need before descending into another cavern: a flight of wine.