Guide to Visting Natural Bridge Caverns
Experience one of the world’s premier caverns, Natural Bridge Caverns. Take the Discovery Tour and see what millions of others have seen – an incredible underground world of natural beauty. This 75-minute tour travels through a half-mile of the largest and most spectacular show cavern in Texas. The new Illuminations Tour gives guests an up-close and personal tour of the amazing Hidden Passages’ dramatic lighting and spectacular formations. For the more daring, Adventure Tours offer physically demanding and thrilling excursions into remarkable wild and rarely-seen sections of the cavern, advance reservations are required. Natural Bridge Caverns also offers one of Texas’ largest climbing towers and zip lines.
Natural Bridge Caverns is the biggest cave in South Central Texas. This cave gets its name because it has a natural rock bridge between two sinkholes. Back in the 1800s, people who lived around this cave would explore it. Bones and other artifacts have been found in the cave dating back thousands of years.
Usually, caves are chilly inside. This privately owned cave is a little different. It is humid inside and fairly warm. If you are a typical visitor, you will want to take the North Cavern tour. Wear good walking shoes–no heels or sandals.
It takes about 75 minutes to complete the tour. Bring your camera for some beautiful shots of God’s artistry underground. If you have never before toured a cave, you will like this one. However, if you have been to Carlsbad Caverns or a similar cave, you will probably be disappointed.
There is also a South Cavern Tour meant for real, experienced cavers. This tour is a one-mile adventure, complete with caving gear and is rated moderate to hard. Reservations are required.
The cave property also has a rock wall tower for climbing, two 350-foot zip lines, and a place for kids to mine for cool stones and gems using a screen and washing dirt in the water.
My kids love the climbing wall and zip lines. I loved mining for the stones–it was great fun, just like the California Gold Rush! Every member of your family should enjoy something about this place.
Natural Bridge Caverns Discovery Tour
After we went on the obstacle course for kids, we took the Discovery Tour at Natural Bridge Caverns. It is self-paced, so you don’t have to wait for the tour to begin. You just purchase the ticket and follow the arrows to the entrance. An adult ticket is $20.99 and a child ticket is $12.99. Children 2 and under are free. Tours start at 9 AM every day. I actually wanted to do the Hidden Passages tour, but since they turn off the lights at one point and my daughter is scared of the dark, I figured it wasn’t a good idea.
At the entrance, you will have to listen to a mandatory speech. The most important part is that you can’t touch anything. Although you can’t bring in food or drinks, there is an exception to this rule; you can bring in water. I suggest that you take your own water because it’s pretty humid in there. The cavern temperature is 70 degrees, but with a humidity level at 99% so it feels like 85 degrees. I was sweating by the time I left. It probably had to do with the fact that I had to carry my thirty-pound toddler at times.
The cavern has some stairs and steep ramps. If you go after it rains, it will be pretty slippery, so make sure to use the handrails. There are tour guides strategically placed at multiple locations in the cave and they will give you a history of the caverns and some important facts about the particular stalagmites and stalactites that are present. We honestly didn’t hear many of them because my son didn’t want to stand still. Plus, my daughter started complaining that her feet hurt two-thirds along the way.
The tour is 3/4 of a mile. The good thing is that it is shorter than it used to be. In the old days, you would go through the cave and then turn around, so you would see everything twice. That isn’t the case anymore. They made an exit and now the tour is shorter since you don’t have to go back the same way you came in. In any event, I had a whiney child on my hands. I told her I would get her an Icee at the visitor’s center if she stopped complaining. That Icee cost me $5 by the way. I should’ve told her that we would go to Sonic if she stopped complaining. For five dollars, we both could’ve gotten slushies.
Natural Bridge Caverns Canopy Kids
We went to Natural Bridge Caverns to check out Canopy Kids. It’s $5.99 per child and kids must be under 48 inches to participate.
One thing I did not know is that there must be at least one chaperone for each kid. So my daughter went first, and then we let my 21-month-old try.
My daughter loved the little course. The only thing that takes getting a little used to is the support system that is holding the kids up. Either the parent or the child will have to move it through the track in order for the kids to traverse the course. Towards the end, she didn’t need my help at all. She learned how to move the support rope herself.
All in all, there are eight obstacles. We got there early so there was only one other person on the course. While my daughter was doing the course, she said she wanted to do the one for older kids. I told her we couldn’t do that one today because there wasn’t anyone to watch her brother. She even wanted to do the zip line, but it has a 48 inches height requirement and a sixty-pound weight minimum. I’m sure she’ll hit that height requirement pretty soon, but I’m not so sure about the weight.
In March of 1960, four students from St. Mary’s University went out for a weekend of spelunking and ended up discovering the fabulous Natural Bridge Caverns. There was chamber after chamber of spectacular formations, one as large as a football field. The gigantic towering columns were breathtaking, there were Emerald pools, delicate, crystalline soda straws, and all of it still living and growing.
Governor Connally christened it the “Jewel in the Crown of Texas’ Attractions”. It has been designated as a National Natural Landmark.
Since its discovery, the area has been developed for the enjoyment of guests who come from all over the world to view this stunning attraction. The first 1/2 mile is the Discovery tour. The Aquifer Tour is available when there have been heavy rains and the water in the Discovery Passages rises to give a view of spectacular and unique natural phenomenon – a close-up view of the aquifer. This tour is not always available, it totally depends on the amount of rainfall and the groundwater flow.
The Lantern Tour is the first tour of the day where you carry cave lanterns to see. It is similar to what the original discovers did nearly 50 years ago.
If you feel you are in great shape then you may want to take the Adventure Tour. This 3 to 4-hour excursion will have you climbing, crawling, rappelling, and exploring only with the light from your helmet. You will be outfitted with caving gear and lowered by rope through a 160-footwell shaft. You will travel approximately one mile, going down to 230 feet below surface level to the Fault Room, and observe the longest soda straw formations in North America, reaching 14 feet in length. But remember, this is only for those in truly great physical condition.
Now that you have come out of the dark you may want to continue to test yourself with other adventures. Try the Watchtower Challenge which is hooking yourself up to one of the largest public zip lines in Texas. It stands 50 feet tall and overlooks the rolling Hill Country landscape. There are two parallel zip lines running more than 350 feet. You get hooked in via a twin stainless steel pulley and step off the platform and go sailing through the air at speeds up to 25 miles per hour as you go 350 feet to the other side.
The Natural Bridge Mining Co. and Rock Shop is something that everyone can enjoy. It is like panning for gold but you are actually going to find gems and minerals as well as possibly a fossil and arrowheads. You get to keep whatever you find.
Take Exit 175 on I-35. For more information, call (210)651-6101.
Natural Bridge Caverns
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX 78266
More Caverns Near San Antonio
There are several other caverns in Texas near San Antonio that are popular tourist attractions:
- Cascade Caverns: Located in Boerne, Texas, about 30 minutes from San Antonio, Cascade Caverns offers guided tours of its underground chambers and formations, including a 100-foot waterfall.
- Cave Without a Name: Located in Boerne, Texas, about 30 minutes from San Antonio, Cave Without a Name is a beautiful limestone cave with stunning formations, including stalactites and stalagmites.
- Bracken Bat Cave: Located just outside of San Antonio in the city of New Braunfels, Bracken Bat Cave is the largest bat colony in the world. Visitors can watch as millions of bats emerge from the cave at dusk each evening.
- Inner Space Cavern: Located in Georgetown, Texas, about an hour and a half north of San Antonio, Inner Space Cavern is a large cave system with underground lakes, unique rock formations, and a variety of fossils.
- Longhorn Cavern State Park: Located in Burnet, Texas, about an hour and a half northwest of San Antonio, Longhorn Cavern State Park offers guided tours of its underground chambers and formations, as well as hiking trails and other outdoor activities.
- Kickapoo Cavern State Park: Located in Brackettville, Texas, about two and a half hours southwest of San Antonio, Kickapoo Cavern State Park features guided tours of its large cavern system, as well as hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities.
- Wonder World Park: Located in San Marcos, Texas, about an hour northeast of San Antonio, Wonder World Park includes a large cave system with guided tours, as well as other attractions such as a wildlife park, observation tower, and anti-gravity house.
These are just a few of the popular caverns near San Antonio. There are several other lesser-known caverns in the area as well.