Grand Caverns
Grottoes, VA

Geology, biology, karst, and watersheds!

THE HISTORY — Grand Caverns was discovered in 1804 by local trapper Bernard Weyer and quickly became the most renowned show cave in America.  At that time, the town of Grottoes as it exists today had not yet been founded.  Before the discovery of Grand Caverns, Thomas Jefferson had visited and mapped other nearby caves, as did George Washington, and both of their signatures can still be seen on the walls of adjacent Madison Cave.  At one point, great dances and balls were held in Grand Caverns, though after a while the owners decided that the raucous crowds were damaging the caves too much and stopped.  During the Civil war, the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, which are often considered two of the greatest Confederate victories of the Shenandoah Valley, were fought near the Caverns.  Both Union and Confederate armies camped in the vicinity of the caves and left their signatures on the ancient walls as the founding fathers had done before them.  The cave passed from owner to owner over the years and is presently owned by the Town of Grottoes.

Thousands of ornate stalactites, stalagmites, and natural columns form stone temples among gleaming curtains and waves of calcite and limestone.  Flowstone cascades like frozen waterfalls down the cave walls.  Tours led by trained guides go through the caves several times a day.  On top of these attractions, the caverns just recently decided to re-open nearby Fountain cave for specially guided adventure tours, which must be arranged in advance.

The town of Grottoes itself was called Liola in the early 1880s before the name was changed to Shendun and eventually to Grottoes in 1888, named after the nearby caverns.  The town was once the major midway point of the Shenandoah line of the Norfolk and Western Railroad, and as such hosted several grand hotels and restaurants. Then, as now, Grand Caverns drew people from around the country and around the world to this picturesque little village at the foot of the mountains.

Though no longer host to luxury hotels or passenger trains, Grottoes is still a warm and hospitable town with much to offer travelers.  The Grand Caverns property is also home to a beautiful public park, with walking and biking trails, a pool, mini-golf, picnic shelters, educational building, gift shop and an outdoor stage all arranged along the scenic South river, which is well stocked and perfect for fishing.  


So what do these much revered Caves have that have kept attracting visitors for the past 200 years? Besides being a National Natural Landmark, the Nation’s oldest continually open show cave, a Civil War Trails site, and being Voted #2 in the USA by Parade Magazine? Only enormous rooms lined with hundreds of exceedingly rare and magnificent shield formations, seen in only a few other caves open to the public and even then only in small numbers.

Grand Caverns hosts three major events throughout the year. Heritage Day is in June each year and is free to the public.  The day is filled with living history demonstrations, re-enactors, local food vendors, and traditional crafts and wares made on site in the demonstrations. They have even resurrected the tradition of holding annual dances in the caves.  Tickets for the ball must be purchased in advance and are limited.

The Bluegrass Festival, sponsored by the Valley Shriners, is held at Grand Caverns every September, the weekend after Labor Day. 100% of the proceeds go to benefit the Shriner’s Children Hospitals.

Caroling in the Caverns, sponsored by the Grottoes Ruritan Club, is held the first Saturday in December with their proceeds being donated to the local Boys & Girls Club and scholarship Fund.


We can offer field trips designed around your lesson plans. School groups ranging from Kindergarten to college come to Grand Caverns to gain a better understanding of how the earth is formed, how karst terrain is created, and how the karst terrain makes a difference in protecting our watershed and much more

Grand Caverns offers special tours to school groups encouraging them to visit the caverns to learn more about geology, biology, karst, and watersheds. There is special pricing available for school groups. Please call for current school group rates.

With your field trip reservation we also provide a shelter for your group to relax or have lunch while visiting the park. With easy access and ample parking for buses and shelters for lunch, Grand Caverns is an excellent choice for school groups of all ages.

Call (540) 249-5705 and ask for Barbara or email

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