Ruby Falls: An Underground Wonder in Tennessee
You may have heard of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but did you know there’s caverns and one of the largest underground waterfalls inside the mountain? Lookout Mountain is the home of Ruby Falls, a 145 foot waterfall that will leave you speechless.
Travel up Lookout Mountain and head into the entrance of Ruby Falls, which is easy to spot because it looks like a stone castle. Each tour group is led into an elevator, which descends 260 feet down through the limestone to the cave. With only one elevator to accommodate visitors, the wait can get quite long, and the line of people can easily snake into the parking lot.
If you can’t handle cramped spaces, don’t like corny jokes, and don’t listen to instruction (like “watch your head!” or “slippery floor!”), then this tour is definitely not for you. We had several people on our tour (that may or may not have been drunk) that ridiculed the entire tour…until they saw the waterfall.
Leo Lambert found Ruby Falls and its cave completely by accident in 1928. He originally wanted to open Lookout Mountain Cave as a tourist attraction, but found an unexpected small opening while digging for the elevator. He crawled for hours and hours through tiny tunnels, finding Ruby Falls. “Ruby” was the name of his wife.
See Related: Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
You can still see the tiny tunnels that he crawled through today. I can’t imagine being in those tight spaces with little light. Too claustrophobic to be a spelunker, I’m afraid.
The walk to the falls and back is a little less than a mile, so wear your walking shoes. Some of the cave floor is wet, so make sure your walking shoes have a good grip. The temperature is constant at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may want to take a jacket as well.
Tour guides will point out cave formations throughout the cavern, ranging from the beautiful to the hilarious. Formations include the Angel’s Wing, the Cactus and Candle, Potato Chip, Bacon, Dragon’s Foot, and Donkey(‘s Butt).
See Related: Zip-lining Underground at the Louisville Mega Cavern
Ruby Falls itself is definitely the star of the show. As you enter the area of the falls, all is dark, but you can hear the water. All at once, the waterfall is visible, dramatically lit with changing colors. Once the timed lights go off, you must leave and continue the tour. It’s definitely a challenge attempting to take photos while being awe-struck. I’m gonna guess and say it’s about five minutes (or less) that the waterfall is visible.
We’ve toured Ruby Falls twice over the years and enjoyed the experience and the tour guides both times. The crowds and prices can seem very much like a tourist trap, but the natural beauty underground really is worth seeing. Be sure to look for combination tickets and discounts to save a few dollars as well.
Do you like to explore caves? Are you claustrophobic? What’s the best cave formation you’ve ever seen? Have you been to Ruby Falls? Did you find it too touristy? We’d love to hear from you, so tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
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Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and three fur babies. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
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