Where to Find Caves to Explore near St. Louis (Local Picks)

caves near st louis

As a local, sometimes I get a little sick of St. Louis. Though the city has its fair share of charm (and then some!), I tire of the strip malls and long to see some natural beauty: glorious forests, rolling hills…oh yeah, and caves, too.

If you’re a nature lover who feels stuck in St. Louis’s concrete jungle, spelunking might just be the fix you need to get your recommended dose of the great outdoors. (Wait… does being in a cave count as being outdoors?!)

Missouri has been dubbed the Cave State, after all, so it only feels right to scope ‘em out. Here are six excellent places where you can find caves to explore near the St. Louis area.

Map of the Best Caves near St. Louis

Fisher Cave at Meramec State Park

To start us off, Meramec State Park in Sullivan is home to the epic Fisher Cave. From small, nature-made rooms to 30-foot-tall columns, this cave will give you a chance to observe just how beautiful an earthly creation can be. You’ll be astounded by just how much detail can be carved into a cave—watch out for the bear paw prints permanently etched into the walls!

Though visitors aren’t allowed to explore the cave alone, you can take a guided tour for a minimal fee. Don’t forget to rent a handheld lantern to light your way—it’s dark in there!

After you’ve walked the cave, you can check out all of the gorgeous hiking trails Meramec State Park has to offer or swim in the Meramec River.

Pro Tip: Fisher Cave is only open for regular cave tours during the warm months, so schedule your trip to Sullivan wisely!

Onondaga Cave and Cathedral Cave at Onondaga Cave State Park

Whether you’re a seasoned spelunker or an eager newbie, Onondaga Cave State Park is sure to please. Located southeast of St. Louis in Leasburg, these caves are a bit of a drive away. However, if you’re willing to make 1.5 hour trek, your cave-going experience will surely pay off.

When it comes to touring the caves at Onondaga, you’ve got a couple of options. You can take a mile long guided walking tour through Onondaga Cave itself, opt for a lantern tour of Cathedral Cave, or commit to the bit and explore both caves. (Note that the Cathedral Cave tour begins with an outdoor hike and is a little more strenuous, so it’s best for more experienced cave lovers.)

The tours may only last an hour or two, but your memories of the cave (or caves!) will last you long after you’re back in the daylight.

Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area

Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area is home to quite a few caves you can explore. Unlike the previous areas listed, this one doesn’t offer guided tours, meaning visitors should be wary of walking into said caves. After all, safety comes first.

Though you may not be able to enter all of the caves at the Rockwoods Reservation Conservation Area, you can certainly peek inside as you make your way along the conservation area’s 13 miles of foot trails. These limestone enclosures are a marvel to behold.

Rockwoods is in Wildwood along the western edge of St. Louis County, making this one of the more easily accessible cave options for St. Louis residents. Bring bug spray, a flashlight, and some binoculars if you’re keen on cave-spotting from afar.

Cliff Cave County Park

Next up on the list is Cliff Cave County Park. I have to tell you something right off the bat: you won’t be entering a cave here. Sadly, the cave at Cliff Cave County Park was closed to the public permanently a few years ago to preserve its natural features. This choice was also made to refrain from disrupting the endangered Indiana Bats who inhabit the cave and keep them safe.

However, just because the cave’s entrance is closed doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy it from the outside! There are also plenty of other natural attractions the park itself has to offer, as well. Hike the park’s three trails (one of which is over seven miles long!), bike around its paved loop, or fish in the Mississippi River. You’ll feel immersed in nature as you observe Cliff Cave’s prowess from afar.

Meramec Caverns

If you’re not so keen on a tough hike but still want to get your fill of natural wonder, head to Meramec Caverns in Sullivan. Their expert tour guides will lead you through over a mile’s length of man-made walkways constructed inside a 7-story cave. This allows you to see the cavern’s enormous and unique columns, stalactites, and stalagmites while staying comfortable.

Meramec Caverns is a for-profit business, and they charge for their tours. However, paying a little bit can be worth it for the assurance of the security and safety of all cave-goers. If you’ve got young children or an elderly guest, the staff at Meramec Caverns can help accommodate them (though note that strollers are not allowed in the cave!).

Once you’ve finished your cave tour, see all of the amenities and attractions that Meramec Caverns has to offer: their riverboats, zipline, and rafts are all notable visitor favorites. These additional activities make Meramec a perfect place for squirrelly kids to be entertained.

When you’ve had your fill of fun, you can check into their motel or pitch a tent for the night. Happy camping!

  •  Address: 1135 Highway West, Sullivan, MO 63080
  •  Website: Meramec Caves