4 Caves You Can Explore Near Gatlinburg

If you’re looking for adventure, visit one of the amazing caves in Gatlinburg, TN. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, this is home to some exceptional caverns.

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Are there any caves near Gatlinburg?

Strap on your headlamp and get ready to adventure into Tennessee’s caves. These are four options to find your inner geologist. 

  • Rainbow Cave Falls
  • Forbidden Caverns
  • Tuckaleechee Caverns
  • Alum Cave

I love exploring caves, so I was thrilled when I found out that there are some beautiful and exciting caves located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee! After doing a bit of research and chatting with locals, I have compiled a list of the top 5 must-see caves in the area. 

About Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a popular tourist destination in East Tennessee, known for a number of things, from its breathtaking Smoky Mountains to its iconic downtown strip. However, it also happens to be full of great caving opportunities as well. 

Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is generally known as a mountain resort city. A testament to this is that it is home to Tennesee’s only ski resort. 

In line with its terrain, it has quickly become for all of the activities that come with the great outdoors. 

It is also a great destination for history lovers, as the Confederates once occupied it during the Civil War. So be sure to put some of the historical sites on your itinerary between caving destinations! 

The Best Caving Near Gatlinburg, Tennessee

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From giant caverns to small tight spaces filled with awe-inspiring formations, these amazing underground wonders will not only provide you with great photo opportunities but also a one of a kind, Tennessee experience!

Rainbow Cave Falls


Rainbow Cave Falls are situated right in Great Smokey Mountains National Park. It is accessible along the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.  It is located in an area called the Whiteoak Sink. 


Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smokies, this magical cave system offers breathtaking views, fascinating rock formations, and enchanting underground pools to explore. 

The star of this show is a 40-foot waterfall that flows into the cave entrance. It is considered a “pit cave” that has a vertical downward path. 

While you can’t venture far into the cave due to the protected bat species that call it home, it offers plenty of picture opportunities in the surroundings.

The layers of rocks, flowing waters, and verdant vegetation are enough of a reason to make this a stop ion your caves of Gatlinburg tour.

Forbidden Caverns

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A 35-minute drive from Gatlinburg, and 45 minutes from Knoxville, you can find these caves off Blower Cave Road in Sevierville, Tennessee. 


Forbidden Caverns has served many purposes over the years. It was first discovered by Native Americans during the 1600s, who used it for ceremonies and rituals. 

Later, it became a hideout for moonshiners who used the cave as a place to store their goods during Prohibition. 

Today, Forbidden Caverns is open to visitors from all over the world looking to explore its unique geological formations and fascinating history. 

There are some truly breathtaking features to this cave destination. 

The walls are covered with stalactites and stalagmites, which have been formed over millions of years. 

There are also several small waterfalls throughout the cave where visitors can take pictures. 

Additionally, colorful rock beds, mysterious underground streams, and incredible crystal formations make this cave stop one of a kind. 

Note this is a seasonal attraction open from April to November. 

Tuckaleechee Caverns


 Located just outside of the city limits of Gatlinburg, this is one of the most accessible caving destinations on the list.

You can find the caverns off Cavern Road in Townsend, Tennessee. 


The Tuckaleechee Caverns were discovered by two local farmers in 1928 who noticed an unusual amount of steam coming from a nearby hillside. 

After exploring further, they stumbled onto one of nature’s most spectacular wonders and named it “Tuckaleechee,” which means “the cave behind the waterfall” in Cherokee. 

Since then, the caves have been used as a tourist attraction as well as for scientific exploration by geologists from around the world.  

These caverns have a “wow factor” that is great for budding rock enthusiasts and those who may not think that caves are their thing.

The walls of these caverns are covered with a thick layer of minerals that refract light, making them sparkle when your flashlight hits them. 

Along with sparkling walls, there are numerous stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over thousands of years due to water dripping from the ceiling. 

These formations range from small drapes of rock formations to massive pillars that extend from floor to ceiling. 

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Alum Cave


This is another great cave destination in Great Smokey Mountains National Park – and not the last of them, as there are plenty more. 

You can access this destination by taking the Alum Cave Hiking Trail in the park. The cave is about a half mile up the trail, although the entire trail can be completed in three to four hours.  


Alum Cave is an amazing destination perfect for both experienced hikers and casual explorers alike. It is located on a hiking trail in the park, which sees some of the best mountain vistas in the area

This trail passes rivers, streams, bridges, and winds through some of the most heavily forested areas of the park.

The cave itself is about 400 feet long, making it one of the longest natural caves in the park. 

Inside, visitors will find a variety of formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstone all carved out by the hard work of water. 

There are plenty of activities to do around the cave, including exploring smaller caves and even rock climbing up cliffs near Mt. LeConte. 

Beware, there is a 1200 feet elevation change, and the altitude can affect some visitors. 

Key Takeaways

  • Gatlinburg Tennessee is a cavers dream. 
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park has many of the best caves in the area. 
  • Alum Cave is great for people who want to have a hike to go along with the cave. 
  • Forbidden Caverns are some of the most famous caves in all of Tennessee.