Deep below Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is an underground world of extraordinary wonder. Hidden from the land above but open for all to see, Luray Caverns is adorned with Mother Nature’s creativity—and she’s been playing interior decorator for more than 4 million centuries. Step into the cave for an amazing adventure of discovery. The all-natural exhibits are sights to behold.
Your journey takes place on a paved, well-lit walkway that meanders 1.25 miles through the caverns. One of the first things you’ll notice is the temperature. Luray Caverns remains at a constant 54 degrees year round. And the breathtaking scenery surrounds you from every direction.
Underground Natural Wonders
Above you, stalactites hold tightly to the limestone ceiling. These hanging wonders began forming millions of years ago when rainwater seeping through cracks in sedimentary rocks picked up decaying organic vegetation and calcium carbonate. Upon entering the cave, the moist mixture emitted carbon dioxide, causing a reaction in which lime precipitation crystallized into calcite. The stalactites continue to grow at a rate of one cubic inch every 120 years.
Like their clingy fellow cavern dwellers above, stalagmites form as a result of dripping minerals inside the cave. The major difference is that these formations begin as mounds and ridges, rising from the cave’s floor like majestic mountains. Given enough time, stalactites and stalagmites can grow into each other. When the two structures meet, they form pillars and columns.
Enter Giant’s Hall and you’ll understand why the National Park Service and Department of the Interior designated Luray Caverns a Registered National Landmark. The vast chambers of this section are made up of massive stone columns, sturdy draperies of shiny rocks and pools of sparkling water. One of the hall’s most impressive structures is the Double Column. Soaring to a height of 47 feet, the column is the record holder for tallest object inside the caverns. This monolithic marvel resulted from years and years and millions of more years of dripping stalactites and accumulating stalagmites growing into one singular formation.
Gaze into Mirror Lake and get lost in this dreamy body of water. Though no more than 18 to 20 inches deep, the depth of its beauty is almost unfathomable. Shimmering from the lake’s surface is a myriad of stunning reflections. You’ll definitely see the awe-inspiring formations and stalactites from above in a whole new way. Other notable landmarks inside this beautifully bizarre place where mysterious irregularities and misshapen patterns are commonplace include the sculpted trophies of Totem Path and the flowing translucent stone drapes of Saracen’s Tent. Be sure to keep your ears open, too. Musicians play seasonal tunes deep within the caverns on Stalacpipe Organ, the largest musical instrument in the world.
Turn back the pages of time at the Luray Valley Museum for a day of educational discovery and exploration. Your journey gets underway at the Stonyman building, a log home with close to 300 artifacts on display—and a detailed history of the Shenandoah Valley from the 1750s through the 1920s. Travel across a 19th century farming community spanning seven acres en route to the 1835 home of the very first delegate to the Virginia General Assembly. Learn about the single-room Hamburg Regular School, the oldest surviving in Virginia and one of the first to enroll African-American children. The walls of the Elk Run Dunkard Church might not talk, but they have a lot to see. Stop by and view the actual signatures of Union and Confederate soldiers that were etched into the sides of this place of worship.
Interested in cars, history and masterfully crafted sheets of metal? Then cruise through the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum at Luray Caverns. The prized auto in this motorized collection is a Mercedes-Benz from 1892—and it’s still fully functional. Get a charge out of seeing the 1908 Baker Electric then stand in awe of silent film star Rudolph Valentino’s souped-up 1925 Rolls Royce.