Nestled in the Western region of the United States, Nevada is primarily made up of endless arid regions and desolate deserts. The state is famed for the bright lights of Las Vegas and the fascinating Lake Tahoe and Lake Mead found, respectively, in the west and southeast.
The numerous caves and caverns in Nevada are the best place to experience the incredible wilderness and scenic sights. Besides the awe-inspiring desert scenery, there are also tons of spectacular gorges and breathtaking formations, with otherworldly historical sights and prehistoric petroglyphs to view in Nevada’s caves.
With lots of exquisite opportunities for experienced and inexperienced spelunkers, there is much more to this fascinating western state than just Las Vegas and casinos. Here are some of the coolest caves to explore in Nevada.
Lehman Caves is a limestone cavern located in Great Basin National Park. The cave features delicate limestone formations, including the usual large shell-like structures known as shields. Besides, the cavern is filled with other intricate formations, such as dazzling stalactites and stalagmites.
Although entry to the national park is free, Lehman Caves can only be accessed at a small fee, depending on the type of tour. Cave Tours are also available on reservation. Visitors cannot take a tour without reservation, especially during summer.
The temperature underground is a steady 50°F year round, so wear a light jacket on your visit.
- Address: 5500 NV-488, Baker, NV 89311, United States
- Website: Lehman Caves Tours – Great Basin National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
- Phone number: +1 775-234-7331
- Entrance fee: Vary as follows depending on the type of tour:
- Grand Palace Tour – $15 for adults, $8 for youth, not applicable for children
- Parachute Shield and Lodge Room Tours – $12 for adults, $6 for youth, and free for children
- Gothic Palace Tour – $8 for adults, $4 for youth, and free for children
- Google Maps link: Lehman Caves
Hidden Cave is a unique cave located at Grimes Point in northwest Nevada. Ancient Lake Lahontan covered the area surrounding this cave and most of northwestern Nevada during the Pleistocene Epoch. The cave was originally excavated in the 1930s by Mark Harrington, who had a hard time finding its entrance, which is why he named it “Hidden Cave.”
With thousands of archaic artifacts discovered here, the cave is critical in providing unusual clues about Desert Archaic life ways. The Native Americans used the cave as a storage site for goods and tools. There is no evidence of human habitation.
Hidden Cave is a perfect destination for hikers, spelunkers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Grimes Point is also famed for carved rock art known as petroglyphs. Ensure you take a self-guided interpretive trail to view these awe-inspiring petroglyphs.
- Address: Fallon, NV 89406, United States
- Website: Grimes Point/Hidden Cave Archaeological Site | Bureau of Land Management
- Phone number: +1 775-423-3677
- Entrance fee: Free
- Google Maps link: Hidden Cave
Humboldt Cave is a dry cave in Churchill County, Nevada. It’s an archaeological site with numerous preserved artifacts, such as fiber and skin garments. The cave is believed to have been originally inhabited by early humans.
The cave was excavated in 1936 by Robert F. Heizer and included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Aside from catching site of artifacts, visitors can also explore the remains of Lake Lahontan, now known as Humboldt Sink. The lake periodically flooded the cave, depositing tufa over the surfaces.
- Google Maps link: Humboldt Cave
Gypsum Cave is an isolated limestone cave located east of Las Vegas. The cave was scientifically excavated in 1930 by field crews from both the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Autry Museum of the American West (Southwest Museum). Both groups wanted to explore the potential association between the Ice Age megafauna and early humans.
The artifacts and fossils collected during the expedition were later integrated into different museum collections. Gypsum Cave is a perfect destination for history buffs and scientists who want to learn more about Pleistocene mammals believed to have inhabited the site.
- Address: Nellis AFB, NV 89191, United States
- Website: Gypsum Cave | Natural History Museum
- Google Maps link: Gypsum Cave
Lovelock Cave in northern Nevada is among the first major caves to be excavated in Great Basin. The Native Americans occupied the cave about 3,500 years ago until the middle of the 19th century. In the beginning, the cave was a rock shelter before an earthquake collapsed the overhang of the mouth.
Among the discoveries made in the cave was a cache of canvasback duck decoys, a very important specimen made of marsh grass called tule. Like Humboldt Cave, Lovelock Cave also lies next to the former lakebed of Lake Lahontan.
- Google Maps link: Lovelock Cave
Nestled in the Worthington Mountain Wilderness, Leviathan Cave is ideal for a day’s adventure. It’s a limestone formation with numerous openings leading from the main cave to other parts of the cave system.
Leviathan Cave is recommended for experienced spelunkers since it involves squeezing yourself through tight passages. Entering the cave requires ropes, helmets, and other gear. Catch sight of spectacular geological features as you manoeuver the cave’s depths.
- Address: Nevada 89001, United States
- Website: Leviathan Cave
- Google Maps link: Leviathan Cave
Located on Pete’s Summit in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Toquima Cave is a rock shelter used by Native Americans many years ago. It was listed in 2002 as an archeological site on the National Register of Historic Places. The cave is limited to public access, and the entrance is fenced off to protect the pictographs.
- Address: Austin, NV 89310, United States
- Website: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest – Toquima Cave Campground
- Phone number: +1 775-331-6444
- Google Maps link: Toquima Caves
Devils Hole is a geothermal pool inside a limestone cavern in Death Valley National Park. The cave is surrounded by the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, home to 26 endemic plants and animal species.
Ash Meadows is an area of desert plants and spring-fed oases designated in 1984 as a wildlife refuge.
The Devils Hole provides habitat to the only naturally occurring population of the endangered Devils Hole pupfish. This species thrives despite hot, poor-oxygenated water.
- Address: Nevada 89060, United States
- Website: Devils Hole – Death Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
- Phone number: +1 760-786-3200
- Entrance fee: Free
- Google Maps link: Devils Hole
This is one of the most visited places in Nevada. Emerald Cave is located within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It was the first national recreation area designated in the United States.
The cave derives its name from the surrounding sparkling emerald water. It produces a natural emerald-green radiance from a combination of green algae on the bottom of the river and the brownish-yellow walls of the cave.
Thousands of people visit the cave every year to kayak, canoe, and take breathtaking photos of the surrounding. Ensure you paddle along the Black Canyon Water Trail to check out this hidden treasure.
- Website: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Although Nevada is not famed for its caves, the ones mentioned above are worth visiting for some real adventure. Most of the caves feature spectacular geological features and artifacts. Exploring them is like entering a whole new world surrounded by fascinating history. The landscapes are varied and eye-catching, from deep canyons to snow-capped mountains. Ensure you are equipped with the necessary gear to face any situation during your trip.
Top image: Antti via Flickr / Creative Commons.