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A cold, rainy day in January made it the perfect time to visit Luray Caverns. The temperature in the cave remains constant all year so it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the outside ~ it’s always 54°F  (12°C) with the humidity making it feel more like  65°F (18°C).

Virginia has over 4,000 caves in varying sizes and Luray Caverns is the largest and most grand of the Virginia caves, It’s also the third largest cave in the United States. It’s a two hours from Washington DC and gets an average of  over 3,000 visitors a day. The tour takes about 1 hour and winds through 1.25 miles of paved walkways through enormous chambers. There are about 70 stairs so beware if you have bad knees.

Having gone on a much more organic cave tour in Doolin, Ireland with only six other people and having to wear a hard-hat, Luray Caverns felt much more commercial and sterile. But the Caverns are massive, beautiful and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Shenandoah area. Every once in a while I felt a drip of water which is called a “cave kiss” and considered good luck.

Luray Caverns Discovered point sign
Luray Caverns were discovered in 1878 by Andrew Campbell

Luray Caverns XX
The calcite (crystalline form of limestone) reminds me of candle wax.

Luray Caverns XXIIII
Stalactites (growing from the ceiling) and stalagmites (coming up from the ground) are everywhere.

Luray stalactites
I tried to stay at the back of the group to get photos but then it was hard to hear the guide.

Luray Caverns Rock Fish
Known has “The Fish Market” These stalactites are amazing and looked fake since their formation is so symmetrical.

Luray Caverns Redwood Tree
Looks like a waterfall

Luray Caverns Mirror Lake
My personal favorite in the cave is Mirror Lake. The illusion of it being so much larger than it is had been staring at it for a while.

Luray Caverns II stalactites
A beautiful chandelier made of calcite

Luray Caverns Dripping
Another chandelier like formation

Luray Caverns Archway
Archway in the cave

Luray Cavern Fallen
A fallen stalactite ~ looks like tree that’s been cut

Luray Caverns Organ
Another item which was a bit jarring ~ the Great Stalacpipe organ which vibrated off the walls and played “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” tune. According to the guide, there have been over 500 weddings at this location.

Even though the Caverns are on the US Historic registry, they are privately owned by the Graves family and unfortunately, as is too often the case, the siblings are squabbling over the future of Luray Caverns. A much more in-depth article here in case you want to read the details.

After the tour, we drove a little ways on the beautiful Skyline Drive which is beautiful even in the dead of winter.

Skyline Backpackers in the wild
We were looking for bears but only came across backpackers in the wild

Skyline Drive Ice Fall
Along the Skyline Drive: Icicles

Skyline Drive
Shenandoah National Park is fantastic year-round (well, maybe minus the snow days). In the winter, there will be less crowds but I’m looking forward to seeing it in the spring and fall as well.

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