Nestled in the stunning Calaveras County of California near Vallecito, the Moaning Caverns Adventure Park is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. At its heart lies one of the most awe-inspiring caverns in California – the Moaning Caverns. Descending over 410 feet into the earth, this giant underground network of tunnels and caverns boasts unique geological formations that will take your breath away.
If you like a little adventure to your bucket list, the Moaning Caverns Adventure Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the depths of the earth through spelunking. But even if you prefer to stay above ground, there’s plenty to see and do. Let’s go ahead and check out what this unique cavernous destination has to offer for your next bucket list adventure.
What You Need to Know About Cave Rappelling at California’s Moaning Caverns Adventure Park
About Moaning Caverns Adventure Park
The Moaning Caverns Adventure Park has a fascinating history dating back during the 1840s Gold Rush when prospectors explored the caves in hopes of striking gold. However, they weren’t as lucky.
In the 1920s, locals purchased the caves and decided to open it for tours, making renovations to improve accessibility. Today, you can enjoy a variety of activities, from guided cave tours to panning for gemstones and more.
The park is also an important archaeological site with a mysterious past, as a pile of human bones dating back 12,000 years was discovered during renovations. You can see some of these bones at the park’s visitor center, making for a haunting reminder of the past.
Why is it called the Moaning Caverns?
You may have been wondering for a while now, “where the heck did they get the caverns’ name from?” While you might think it is related to some eerie tale and whatnot, the name ‘Moaning Caverns’ comes from the sounds of water dripping through bottle-like holes at the base of the cavern.
Thanks to the cave’s size and space, its acoustics give the dripping water a thump, almost-moaning quality to it as the sound echoes inside. However, it only happens at random times during the year, as the cave is not subjected to the outside elements. They said that with the addition of the spiral staircase and visitor center, it is even harder to hear today. Still, it doesn’t take away from the magic the Moaning Caverns have in store for visitors.
Exploring these California Caverns
There are two ways you can go about exploring these fascinating caverns: either by a Spiral Tour or the longer Expedition Tour. Regardless of which one you pick, the experience will surely be one for the books!
The Spiral Tour
The Spiral Tour is a 45-minute family-friendly tour that takes you to the cavern’s largest public single cave chamber in California. It is so big (reaching over 180 feet), in fact, that you can fit the Statue of Liberty inside, minus the pedestal!
You can view the main cavern from above through a flat platform, and from there, you’ll climb down a 144-step spiral staircase built from the scraps of a 1922 WWI battleship to reach the cavern’s base.
As for what to wear, any decent comfortable clothing will do, as long as you have footwear with good traction. If you get cold easily, you might want to bring a sweater/light jacket.
The Expedition Tour
For those seeking an authentic spelunking experience, the Expedition Tour is highly recommended. Unlike the Spiral Tour, this one takes you to the cavern’s untouched areas, meaning you’ll be crawling and climbing your way through natural passageways with nothing but lighted helmets. And just like their warning, it is definitely NOT a walk in the park.
But don’t worry! Experienced guides will accompany you throughout the tour, ensuring your safety and enjoyment even as a novice spelunker. All required gear is provided, and special clothing instructions will be given upon reservation. Minors must be at least 12 years old and accompanied by an adult.
The duration of the tour varies depending on the size of the group and their experience. However, it is recommended to allocate at least half a day for the tour.
Can You Rappel into the Moaning Cavern?
Though you used to be able to rappel into the Moaning Cavern (and I did do it back in the day), they have unfortunately discontinued this activity.
What is the Temperature inside California’s Moaning Cavern?
As the caverns are sheltered from the outside elements, the temperature inside is at a constant 61°F/16°C with an average humidity of 85%.
With the exception of the Expedition Tour, this means you can usually wear comfortable clothing with footwear that has a proper grip. You may also bring warm clothing like a sweater if you get cold easily.
Other Things To Do at Moaning Cavern
Aside from exploring the fascinating rock formations and nooks and crannies of the Moaning Caverns, you can also enjoy a number of activities above ground.
These include panning for gemstones like a prospector, hitting the bullseye at ax throwing, or ogling (and even purchasing) a variety of minerals, rocks, and fossils from around the world.
Close by is also the quaint, charming town of Murphys, California. The small downtown offers several nice restaurants & over a dozen wine tasting rooms. But, one of the biggest tourist attractions is the yearly frog jumping contest. Participants spend all year choosing and prepping their slimy creatures for the fierce battle. I think I just found one more thing to add to my bucket list.
Moaning Caverns Adventure Park is a remarkable destination that offers something for everyone. The caverns themselves are a marvel of nature, boasting impressive geological formations and a rich history that adds to their allure.
Whether you’re an experienced spelunker looking to explore the depths of the earth or a novice adventurer seeking a unique experience, Moaning Caverns is an attraction that is not to be missed. So take a step into the unknown, and prepare to be awed by the breathtaking beauty of this natural wonder.
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