Translate

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Skyline Caverns is a great tour at any time of the year

Skyline Caverns is a great place to visit anytime of the year. If you're local and want to escape the summer heat, Skyline is also a fantastic day trip in July or August because it's nice and cool inside those caverns (54 degrees year round). If you're visiting the area, it is a nice side excursion and a bit off the beaten path from other busy tourist areas.
 

Some of the other cavern tours are highly commercial, and this can distract from the beauty of nature's handiwork. Skyline Caverns is not structured this way at all, the grounds are rather low key and beautiful. I found it pretty fascinating to see all the stalactites, stalagmites and the rare anthodites, the latter of which are only visible in a handful of publicly shown caverns in the world.

Stalactites reflecting in pool of water at Skyline Caverns
Can you tell which are the stalagmites and the stalactites? This is actually a reflection of stalactites in low level water.

History of Skyline Caverns


While the real history of Skyline dates back thousands, more likely even hundreds of thousands of years, the modern history of Skyline Caverns begins in 1937 when Walter Amos discovered this treasure. Amos was examining the earth's surface and discovered what looked like a sinkhole. Knowing that sinkholes are created when a cavern collapses, he began to search for openings to caves.

Visible fault line in Skyline Caverns
Looking up at the cavern ceiling, a fault line is visible

He made an incredible find. It took quite a bit of digging through clay and mud to discover the secrets Mother Nature had been hiding. Once explorers got to the first cavern, they discovered a series of cavern rooms which were not barricaded. As they continued to delve further, they discovered the anthodites which are believed to have been blocked for hundreds of thousands of years.
 

Tour of the Caverns


Skyline's tours are interesting and guides create a good time for visitors. The caverns themselves are pretty amazing. As you tour Skyline Caverns you get to see close up the talents Mother Nature possesses. While these caverns aren't as large as some other formations located across the United States, and even in Virginia, they are no less remarkable.


Formations inside Skyline Caverns in Front Royal, Va.
Formations inside Skyline Caverns
Stalactites at Skyline Caverns
Up close view of stalactites

Skyline is one of the few places on Earth where you can view anthodites. To say they are astonishing is an understatement. Viewing these up close is a memorable experience, especially knowing it's such a rare thing to see. The anthodites are protected by Virginia State Law and are highly regulated; a tour guide is always present and must open the special chamber that contains them to allow visitors to view these formations.

Rare anthodites at Skyline Caverns
A close up view of the different stages of the rare anthodites

Touring the caverns lasts about an hour and you should plan for a lot of walking, be sure and wear comfortable shoes. You'll be glad you did this once you begin navigating the various chambers with your group. It is also a good idea to bring a jacket. Visitors who don't have one are likely to spend a lot of time running their arms together in attempts to stay warm.

As you pass through the chambers, it is evident the caverns have not been altered much by humans, but for the most part, left in its natural state. The walkways are not paved and pretty much lighting and hand rails are the only additions. Strollers and wheelchairs can be accommodated, but there are some stairs entering and exiting the caverns where they would have to be carried.

While the cavern tour is great, Skyline Caverns offers two other activities for the kids on their property, the Enchanted Dragon Mirror Maze and Skyline Arrow Miniature Train Ride; the train ride is seasonal.

Skyline Arrow Miniature Train Ride
Skyline Arrow Miniature Train Ride

The staff members at the ticket sales and gift shop are friendly and knowledgeable. While some items are expensive, the gift shop isn't grossly overpriced like you may find with other similar commercial establishments.

It's a great trip whether you're a local or if you're visiting Northern Virginia for vacation. I've taken this tour a number of times over the years and many of our friends and family really have enjoyed this tour when they visit.

Skyline Caverns is located in Front Royal, about 90 minutes west of Washington, D.C. via I-66. For information about tour times, admission and other relevant information, you can visit Skyline's website.

1 comment: