Though best known for its big trees, Sequoia National Park has a fascinating underworld, one you can explore during a tour through Crystal Cave.
Perhaps not as grand and as expansive as that cave system protected by Mammoth Cave National Park, Crystal Cave is a great way to take a break from the forests and head underground to see Sequoia's basement.
"Beautiful formations, impressively large rooms and ornate marble polished by a subterranean stream make a tour of Crystal Cave an unforgettable experience," notes the Sequoia Natural History Association. "After passing through the spider web gate, your guide will give you a brief history of the cave and point out unique features and formations. During the 45-minute tour, you will be led from room to room on paved, lighted pathways, pausing to listen to the water and echoes in the cave in total darkness."
There are a variety of ways to explore Crystal Cave:
Historic Candle-Light Tour
Experience Crystal Cave in a different light using candle lanterns. Each visitor will be provided their own lantern as they tour this unique, marble cave. Crystal Cave was first discovered by park employees in 1918 and opened to the public 70 years ago for tours. Step back in time to view the cave in much the same way that it looked to the first explorers with flickering candles and listen to the stories of discovery, exploration, development and restoration in this beautiful national park treasure. Tours begin Saturday, June 23, 2011 through Sunday, September 4, 2011. Tour times are Saturday and Sunday at 4:30 pm. Tour length is 1.5 hours. Limited to 15 persons. Ages 13 and up. No flash photography. Not recommended for those who have trouble seeing in low light situations, or with mobility problems.
Go Into the Wild
Explore the remote sections of Crystal Cave on a belly-crawling tour. The Wild Cave Tour gives you the opportunity to learn about Sierran caves first hand. Your cave guide will explain how the delicate formations such as soda straws, rimstone dams and cave pearls are formed. Learn proper caving techniques, etiquette and conservation issues from experienced cavers. Experience total darkness and silence interrupted by the rhythmic sounds of dripping and flowing water. Explore off-trail, crawl and climb through passage ways, over steep drop-offs and past intricate formations on a 4 to 6 hour tour within this marble cave. Expect to come away with great memories, new knowledge and insight, intermingled with sore muscles and a thick coating of dirt from head to toe. Caving gear is provided.
Limited to ages 16 and older. Space is VERY limited and popular. Call 559.565.4251 to register.
This popular tour is a more in-depth experience in a smaller group size. It provides a deeper understanding of the geology and wildlife of the cave environment. The tour is only available Monday through Friday at 4:15pm. Tours begin June 20, 2011 through September 2, 2011. Tour length is 1.5 hours. Limited to 16 persons. Ages 13 and up.
Cave tours run from May 14, 2011, to October 23.
Postscript: In 2009, the Sequoia Natural History Association and the National Park Service joined forces to install a solar-power generation system at Crystal Cave to make tours and operations available by power from the sun. With funding provided by grants from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Bank of the Sierra, funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and SNHA, the cave went fully solar-powered in 2010. In addition to the solar panels and system, the cave was equipped with new lighting inside to assist in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. These lights lessen the growth of algae, which disrupt the natural life cycle inside the cave. Crystal Cave is home to specific lifeforms that are not known to live anywhere else in the world. With more than 200 caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, it is essential to protect the Sierra caves while teaching visitors about the underground world of our national parks.