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Daytripping: Howe Caverns

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On a Howe Caverns Underground Tour

Howe Caverns: Spelunking Expeditions and Tours

Lantern Tour at Howe CavernsThough summer is at its end, I bet we still have some scorching days ahead of us. Instead of doing a water park trip to cool off, I decided to try something a little more unusual: a guided spelunking expedition in the local caves! You’ve probably seen the big white mountainside letters along route 88, but this is no Hollywood. Howe Caverns is a geological and historical underground adventure that teaches and delights.

The caves were explored by Lester Howe and Henry Wetsel, two local farmers way back in May 1842; they were officially open to the public in 1843. This series of limestone passageways and enormous rooms is 156 feet underground—15 stories, they told us in the elevator! While Howe’s initial tours of the six million-year-old marvels lasted anywhere from 8 to 12 hours, the Traditional Tour that I chose is only 90 minutes and not at all strenuous. I won’t give away too much of the history and secrets of the cave; the tour guides of today provide plenty of stories and facts that will keep you amazed all day.

Howe Caverns has grown at a remarkable rate in recent years. I remember going on a school field trip many years ago. Looking back, it all seems so prehistoric. The caves are paved with red brick and have plenty of lights. There are several options for underground tours, including the Traditional Tour, the Lantern Tour, and the Adventure Tour. Not only do the tours highlight the history of human interaction with the various points of interest in the caves (from the Lake of Venus to the Bridal Altar), they also help to educate on the processes by which the caves’ landmarks formed. It’s all about affordable options here.

The 90-minute Traditional Tour is $23 for an adult ticket, with reduced prices for children and senior citizens, which leaves plenty of wiggle-room in the budget for food at the café or splurging in the gift shop, where I used some of my spare change to buy a small bag of dirt for gem sifting. I bought my tickets day-of, since the Traditional Tour does not accept reservations. For this tour, the caves are open daily 9am to 6pm, but hours vary for the other excursions. My tour began only 10 minutes after the previous one—a very short wait, I thought. The Lantern Tours, held in the evenings, require reservations and are $35 per person. An intense two-hour Adventure Tour costs $108, but for diehard spelunkers, it’s well worth the price. I’ll be going back to do that one; the caves are too cool!

There’s something for everyone here, whether you want to bring your partner, family, or a large group. The owners of Howe Caverns have worked with local businesses to create a variety of day trip or overnight packages for whatever you might be looking for in a quick vacation. Howe High is the new above-ground adventure park with a zip line and ropes course, and the geode cutting and gem sifting are sure to be hits with the kids. Don’t forget to ask about the mouse in the stalactite!

Howe Caverns is located in Schoharie County, NY, just off of Route 7 East and it is open year round, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For specific information regarding hours, tour content, expense, and directions, visit

Kate Smith is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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