Blanchard Springs Caverns

There is a winding road in north Arkansas that takes you someplace you likely haven't been. Unless you're part of the visitors who make the trek to tiny Fifty Six, AR, (population 174), you're unaware of the beauty and majesty of the caverns in Stone County. Blanchard Springs Caverns are some of the most popular in the United States making the 10 Best here, as they are a part of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest outside of Mountain View, AR. When you see the grandeur of living things some 200 feet underground, you marvel at the life that exists there. It's a humid 58 degrees inside; the humidity is from the constant dripping water and the mild temperatures are perfect to escape the summer heat in the South as well as a perfect environment for the bats and salamanders and other critters who call it home.

If you are considering a trip there, the easiest of the tours is the Dripstone Trail which is available year-round. It is an easy hour-long tour that allows strollers and wheelchairs. The tour guides do a great job telling you everything you want to know about the caverns, and don't forget your cameras. The caverns are well-lit but you have to be there to appreciate them. The next trail to try is the Discovery Trail. It is an hour and a half long and takes a bit more endurance than the easier Dripstone Trail. This trail is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. This trail is the first one my family and I did, and it is breathtaking. Hearing how people risked their lives to discover the trails inside the caverns is fascinating! The Discovery in the Dark Headlamp Tour isn't for people with certain health conditions. Those are listed on the website, but this one shows certain parts of the caverns that aren't accessible to the public on the other two tours. But for the very adventuresome, the mac daddy of all tours is the Wild Cave Tour. This is the one my youngest child is dying to do, but for this last trip, she didn't have the proper boots. If you don't have over-the-ankle lace up boots with good tread, you will be denied access. It is for the person who wants to scoot, shimmy, slide and crawl in undeveloped sections of the caverns. I am in no way interested, but for those of you who are, have at it. I'll be at home in my pajamas surfing the World Wide Web and eating buttered popcorn.

Photos courtesy of and used with permission: Aaron Bowman.

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