California Cavern

After two of us visited the California Cavern State Historic Landmark near Mountain Ranch, CA, now we want to see all 5 caverns California Cavern operates in! The signs & billboards they've placed along U. S. Hwy. 99 & along the way eastward were helpful in directing us to where this site is located in the Mother Lode country, especially because we had started out our road trip (from Los Banos, CA) not intending to do any caving that day.

After arriving, we did the standard, 1 - 1.33 hr., non-strenuous room-by-room illuminated walking tour that almost anybody on two legs can do, but they also offer longer, more ambitious expert-led caving expeditions deeper into the underground cave network. The underground features were strategically lit to highlight their geological significance & beauty. Abundant 19th & early 20th Century graffiti, including names & dates, can be easily seen & read at many points; accordingly, you learn much about the history of the area, including legends & physical features revealing practices of pre-European Native American heritage (grinding rock depressions, for example) in & around the cave accesses. Light to moderate-effort hiking trails in the immediate area branch out from the path to the cave itself; ask the docent / tour leader (or call ahead) about where more hiking in the area can be done - she was quite knowledgeable with us.

Below ground the air temperature & humidity are consistently cool but comfortable (naturally ventilated). The air is clean & refreshing year-round, moderating the extremes of heat & cold experienced outside during summer & winter - it's far better for people with allergies than being outdoors!

The gift shop offers real fossils, cut rock crystals, etc. at very good prices. It also offers informative literature for adults & children about this & nearby sites of interest related to caving & otherwise, as well as educational kits & materials about many things including prehistoric & contemporary animals in the region. This site is one of the out-of-the-way, off-the-beaten-path gems of the Sierra Nevada!

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For additional information / media, such as many pictures taken inside the underground caverns, check out the website.

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Location

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Nearby
Latitude: 38.074582 Longitude: -120.5591583 Elevation: 1463 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Mark Brux

Recreational Opportunities

There are actually five sites (see the website); a handy color picture brochure summarizing what they offer at all of them is available at each.

Seasons Accessible

Access to the caverns is generally year-round, but contacting the site(s) ahead of time for tour availability during specific dates or hours is recommended. Best time to visit is when we showed up in the Autumn: before the winter rains begin to make some areas of the cave less accessible because the groundwater percolates down & fills some of the pools & lower areas; but also when those underground reflecting pools (a little of which were still present in Oct. 2009 when we were there during a drought) work in combination with the lighting to produce their own beautiful effects.

Fees

$14.25 regular for 1 adult, including $1.00 off for a future tour there or at the other 3 sites run by the Sierra Nevada Recreation Co.

ADA Accessibility Notes

See "About this Natural Area" above.

Pet Friendly Notes

We had no pets with us, but almost certainly not allowed in the caves. Should be OK outdoors on leash to relieve themselves or to take for a walk on hiking trails in area. Contact ahead of time the specific site(s) you plan on visiting for pet participation information.

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