Longhorn Cavern State Park
September 24, 2019
Longhorn Cavern State Park, an easy day-trip from Austin Texas, is a river-carved cavern full of human history.
A night-club in a cave? Tell me more!
Overview of Longhorn Cavern State Park
You might think (if your brain works like mine), that all caverns are active and moisture-laden. Drip. Drop. Drip.
However, this is not the case with Longhorn Cavern. If you are seeking an “active” cavern that is building stalagmites and stalactites in front of your eyes, then this is not your cavern.
There are a few spots of active dripping limestone where stalactites and stalagmites are still growing. They might even become columns thousands of years from now.
But these are the exception, rather than the norm, in Longhorn Caverns. Rather than forming the cavern, these drips indicate some leaks in the so-called ceiling of the cavern.
Longhorn Cavern, in cave-speak, is a horizontal cavern rather than a vertical cavern. The cavern was carved by an ancient river so the focus is on the horizontal, not the vertical.
The cavern actually consists of three levels: the basement, the center level, and the attic. The Walking Tour is held on the center level. The Wild Cave Tour (think wiggling and crawling) includes portions of the basement level.
The Walking Tour (see their website for current schedule and pricing) is just over one mile of walking and takes about ninety-minutes to complete. Unlike other cavern tours, these tours are guided by a 3rd party vendor, not by park rangers.
Our guide is a local fellow – born and bred in the area. Thus, he seemed to know everyone in the county. More than a few of his stories included tidbits and knowledge handed down through family lore of how people used the cavern. Phrases like this were used:
- “The guy I have coffee with every week said his uncle told him…” – fill in the rest of the cavern story.
- “The great-niece of so-and-so shared the story of how her relatives used to “ – fill in the explanation of how that mark got on the cavern wall.
- “We can’t prove it yet but we believe based on stories we have heard…” – fill in the blank with a theory on a piece of the human history of the cavern.
The focus of the walking tour is mostly on the human history of the tour. You get to view certain features of the cave but most of the time is spent listening to the “people” stories of the spots.
At various points in time, the cavern has been used for:
- Native American tribal meetings
- A high-drama spot involving kidnapped victims and their rescue by rangers
- A night-club including food-service
- A cathedral
Even if you aren’t into human history, the well-told stories easily entertain you. For example, the (Civilian Corporation Corps) actively developed the cave for modern day tours. Imagine you are a young adult with zero construction background. You are sent underground and told to clear the cavern. Your toolset includes manual labor as well as dynamite sticks. No safety rules, no official training. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
On the walking tour, the only critter we spotted was the Perimyotis subflavus. More commonly known as Chicken Nugget bats — an apt description of their size. Our bat just hung upside down and let us snap a quick photo. If you take the Wild Cave Tour, you may spot a few more creatures.
Tips for visiting
What to wear
- Wear sturdy shoes. The cavern floor is SLIPPERY!
- Clothing – temperatures in the cavern are mild. 68 degrees and 60% humidity. Shorts and short-sleeves were sufficient.
When to visit
- Avoid visiting during spring break time. The guides say it is a madhouse. 40-person tours are run every 15 minutes.
- Avoid weekends during the summer if you can.
Since the tour guides work for a 3rd party vendor and are NOT park rangers, the do accept gratuities after the tour. Have some small bills on hand if you’d like to tip your guide.
Things to do at Longhorn Cavern
The cavern tours are the main focal point of any visit to Longhorn Cavern. While you can visit the grounds for free, plan to spend the money to take a tour.
There is one hiking trail on the park grounds.
Plan on taking 20 minutes to explore the observation tower. Climb the spiral staircase to the 3rd floor to view Ink Lake in the distance.
A small picnic area is available for use.
There is no onsite lodging or camping. For nearby camping, check out Ink Lake State Park just six miles from Longhorn Cavern State Park.
The visitor center offers some food and beverages. It houses a gift shop as well.
If you want a great burger, check out Reverend Jim’s Dam Pub located about 12-miles northwest of the park.
Located 65 miles northwest of Austin, Texas, Longhorn Cavern State Park is a stop worth making. Learning about how humans have used the cavern throughout the years is bound to entertain everyone in your group. Combine a visit to this park with a stay at nearby Ink Lake State Park for a fun-packed long weeekend.
And if you like exploring caverns, check out our other favorite caverns!
- Trip Date: September 2019
- Name: Longhorn Cavern State Park
- Location: Burnet, Texas
- Price: Free to enter park, $ to $$ to take a cave tour
- Family friendly: yes