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Sacajawea Hotel Blog

Uncovering The Lewis & Clark Caverns: Exploring Beneath The Earth

Posted by Sacajawea Hotel on Aug 21, 2018 6:30:00 AM

 

Lewis & Clark Caverns

Untold mysteries and wonders lie under the mountain at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, and opportunities to explore are just steps away, letting you get underground to help beat the summer heat with natural air conditioning. At the park, you’ll find a cafe and two gift shops, two visitor centers, plus more than ten miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore. And of course, the park’s namesake is not to be missed. The good news is that this cave has a tour for everyone.  

 

Classic Cave Tour

The most frequently offered tour—offered fifteen minutes to an hour apart on a sliding schedule—the Classic Tour takes you on a two hour, two-mile romp through one-third of the mapped cave system. Visit one of the most densely decorated caverns open to the public, and experience the magic of seeing whisper-thin and winding helictites alongside towering columns of crystallized calcite.

Start out with a view-fueled hike uphill to the entrance, gaining 300 feet in elevation over three-quarters of a mile. A bottle of water is your friend on hot July days. But once you’re inside the cave, enjoy the cool air as you bend and crouch your way along the trail, descending about 500 stairs and climbing roughly 100 during your trip through the cave system. The famous Beaver Slide—a four-foot long, well-polished travertine slide—is just the start of the adventure.

Wind your way through the expansive rooms and tight passageways to follow your guide out the other end. Supportive shoes are a must, as the natural rock underfoot can be slippery. And sweat quickly turns to goosebumps if you venture too long in the darkness without a light jacket, so be sure to come prepared.

Quick info:

  • Length: 2 hours, 2 miles
  • Cost: $12 ages 12 and up, $5 ages 6–11, free for ages 5 and under
  • Reservations: None
  • Offered: Daily from May 1 – September 30, variable schedule with wait times for tours generally 30 minutes or less.

 

Paradise Tour

This one hour, one mile guided tour will keep the youngest and oldest members of your group happy. Without the bending, stooping and stairs of the longer tours, this is an option that goes easy on the back and knees while still letting you see the largest and most active—and arguably most spectacular—room in the cave. Offered each day that the caverns are open, tour times vary throughout the season, so contact the park for more information.

The tour takes a flat gravel trail to go in the lower portion of the cave. Good traction and a light jacket are still a good idea since temperatures dip just below 50 degrees Fahrenheit once you head into the earth, and the path is slick with dripping water inside the cave.

Quick info:

  • Length: 1 hour, 1 mile
  • Cost: $12 ages 12 and up, $5 ages 6–11, free for ages 5 and under
  • Reservations: None
  • Offered: Daily from May 1 – September 30. Contact park for tour times.

 

Exploring the Lewis and Clark Caverns

Photo by All Around The West.

Wild Cave Tour

Take it up a notch, and get a little wild on the Lewis & Clark Caverns Wild Cave Tour. This introduction to caving takes you crawling into some less-trodden sections off the main tour route. Expect to get dirty and damp, and be ready for adventure.

This three-hour tour won’t leave you stranded on Gilligan’s Island. You’ll suit up beforehand, but you need to bring your own sturdy, close-toed shoes and wear long sleeves and long pants to help protect you and the cave. The park provides gloves, helmet, headlamp and kneepads, and then you’re off. Get off the beaten path and crawl through rooms that will show you the hidden side of Lewis & Clark Caverns.

Quick info:

  • Length: 3 hours, strenuous crawling
  • Cost: Ages 12 and up only, $30 per person
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Offered: Mid June to mid August, Tuesdays and Sundays at 5:30pm

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Topics: Activities, Montana Vacation, Weekend Getaway, History, Insider

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