Off Ark. 14, 15 miles northwest of Mountain View, Arkansas
Because some of the more enchanting caves here were not discovered until the 1960s, this magnificent underworld system isn’t yet as well known as New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, though it is in many ways just as spectacular.
Visitors to this subterranean marvel have a choice of three tours. Along the easier Dripstone Trail found in 1963, you pass through the aptly named Cathedral Room, an enormous chamber whose size is accentuated by a play of light on a number of dazzling cave formations, and the stunning Coral Room.
The Discovery Trail is a taxing 90-minute walk, including 700 steps, and is open only from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Commensurate rewards include seeing the underground stream that creates Blanchard Springs and the haunting Ghost Room. The Wild Tour, available only by reservation, is a very strenuous three- to four-hour tour of the deeper reaches of the caves.
The caverns are located in an unspoiled area of the Ozark National Forest near Sylamore Creek, a pristine stream claiming one of the few old-fashioned swimming holes left in this part of the country. A recreation area at the cavern site offers camping.
–Open year-round. Admission charged.