Explore Upstate Caves

Howe Caverns

The Upstate region is dotted with interesting caves, that run as deep as 156 feet below ground

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Visitors walking along the subterraneous ways of Howe Caverns. Stretches of the caverns are 156 feet below ground level and offer visitors a unique experience.
Visitors walking along the subterraneous ways of Howe Caverns. Stretches of the caverns are 156 feet below ground level and offer visitors a unique experience.

During the warmest days of summer, cave exploration can provide relief from the heat without holing up at home in the air conditioning. Consider visiting these “cool” parks and sites.

Natural Stone Bridge and Caves Park

Hike nature trails above ground, including waterfalls and gorge—or take a guided tour into lighted caves. In July and August, the tours can include a “cave float,” three hours of spelunking, DinoDig, gemstone mining and other activities.

535 Stone Bridge Road, Pottersville • https://stonebridgeandcaves.com

Howe Caverns

The biggest, most famous cave attraction in New York, Howe Caverns is 156 feet below ground level. The guided, educational tour includes an elevator ride to the caves, boat ride on an underground river and hike among the rocky corridors lit by colorful lights. While at Howe Caverns, take time to experience the Adventure Park with it zipline, high ropes course, climbing wall and air jumper. The extensive gift shop offers numerous mementos and educational gifts. Check the website for tour packages.

255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave • https://howecaverns.com

Panama Rocks

Dating back to 1885, this park spans 15 acres of ancient ocean floor with trails winding among 60-foot rock formations, huge tree roots, chasms and into caves. In addition to the geologic wonders, visitors aged 11-plus can try ax throwing.

11 Rock Hill Road, Panama • www.panamarocks.com

Secret Caverns

Located not far from Howe Caverns, Secret Caverns’ tours lead to an underground 100-foot waterfall. The caverns are closer to nature yet accessible enough for average tourists to enjoy (no belly scrubbing necessary). The kitschy, hand-painted folk art on the signs and at the entrance hearken back to the ‘50s and ‘60s indicates Secret Caverns stands out from bland roadside attractions. The lodge offers a bizarre collection of artifacts to view and a gift shop.

671 Caverns Road, Cobleskill • www.facebook.com/SecretCaverns

Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride

This 70-minute tour includes a guided walking and underground boat ride in a tour that looks at the history of the Erie Canal’s Locks 67-71, circa 1838. The tour includes stalactites, flowstone, and other geological formations and explores how engineering enabled boats to transverse 60-foot differences in water levels.

5 Gooding Street, Lockport • https://lockportcave.com

Hungry for More?

For more authentic—and less “touristy”—caving experiences, check the listing of caves in Albany and Schoharie counties at

Maintained by the Northeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.in Schoharie, many of the cave preserves listed require permits for entry and caving equipment. They lack the handrails, steps, gift shops and restrooms of the above listed cave sites; however, for older teens and adults, they offer a natural spelunking experience.

Plan your caving adventures. View a site’s social media page or website for updates. Bring along another layer, as caves tend to be cool and damp. Wear slip-resistant, close-toed shoes. You may encounter bats on the tour; however, if left alone, they usually stay put. Never remove anything from the site.