The Caverns at Natural Bridge

As part of my “cave-a-palooza” quest to visit all of the cavern attractions within an hour’s drive of Staunton, I recently took a pleasant tour of the Caverns at Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County.

Since I have already notched Grand, Endless, Shenandoah and Luray caverns onto my belt, I was curious as to how these particular underground cavities would stack up (or down, if you catch my drift).

But first, I want to share an amusing anecdote that sums up my latest cavern experience compared to the others.

A good friend of mine shared a story a few years back, of a time she was sitting in a coffee shop. At a table nearby, two older ladies took a seat and proceeded to order their drinks. One asked for a cup of coffee, and the other, a cup of hot water (yes).

After they’d been served and a few minutes of companionable silence had gone by, the one friend leaned in and asked her companion how she liked her hot water. She gave it some thought and then replied:


That anecdote has always cracked me up. I mean, can you really tell the nuanced difference between one cup of hot water from another? And then for it to be just, ‘okay?’

So, since I consider myself a connoisseur now of cavern tours, I have to say although enjoyable, the Caverns at Natural Bridge are probably my least favorite so far.

There are of course, plenty of formations to ‘ooh and aah’ over, but I struggle to find anything unique about this tour over the others I have seen. It was cool that a skull was seen lying on the ground down a passageway closed to the general public, but that was pure theater.

The fact that you descend about 300 feet under the earth’s crust is formidable, and our guide, a young man with lots of energy, shared a few good jokes.

But I’ve heard the same “how was it discovered story’ many times before. It always seems to be a couple of young boys who stumbled upon the caves. I guess back in the day before Xbox, what else was there to do but grab a rope and descend hundreds of feet under the earth’s surface to see what they could see.

I do not doubt the veracity of these discovery claims at all. Maybe I’m just getting saturated with the tour stories, and simply clamor for a juicier one like this:

A hundred years ago, a group of elderly Belgian birdwatchers were gingerly picking their way across the Virginia countryside, when they noticed Myrtle, the crankiest member of the group, had disappeared. Come to find out, she had fallen into a sinkhole. After getting a couple of young boys (who always happen to be nearby) to tie her to the rope and pull her up, with her last breathe, she squawked, “I told you we should’ve gone to Florida!”

But, positive aspects of visiting this cavern include close access to other family-friendly things to do. The wonderful Natural Bridge State Park that I mentioned in a earlier post, and then some cheesy (I assume) dinosaur and zoo-type attractions are also nearby. The formidable James River, with lots of water-related activities, snakes through this section of Virginia.

It was a pleasant drive taking the back roads from Staunton to these caverns, and it was a nice tour. However, I still have to say, ‘meh.’

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