Moaning Caverns was discovered in the 1840s by gold miners but there is evidence of arrowheads and other pointed tools that appear to have been quarried in the area, date back thousands of years and tell us that the first humans on the continent may have lived near Moaning Caverns.
Artifacts and bones found in the cave date back hundreds of years and give us some insight into these ancient people. A necklace, displayed at our visitor center, was found in a clay layer and is estimated to be over 8,000 years old!
Our name comes from the moaning sounds that echoed out of the cave. Miners may have heard that sound when they came to this area in large numbers during the late 1840s. In their search for gold, they explored the cavern, entering through the small natural entrance and then lowering themselves to the floor of the main room by means of a large ore bucket on a winch. They used candles and whale oil lamps for light. Today you can explore Moaning Caverns on a cave tour, deep underground!
Home to the largest single cave chamber in California, the Spiral Tour is an ideal family tour! With a 20 to 30 foot thick ceiling, the open area inside the chamber is, in fact, tall enough to hold the Statue of Liberty (pedestal excluded)! The massive room extends into the marble deposit of the Calaveras Formation over 180 feet before funneling into smaller passageways.
Visitors may view the cavern’s main chamber by walking and climbing the staircase to a flat platform 65 feet underground. For the truly athletic and adventurous, from there, a ten-story spiral staircase leads down to a second platform at the base of the chamber.
Our unique 100-foot high spiral staircase is an architectural wonder and was built in 1922 using scrap metal from an old WWI battleship!
The staircase has 144 stairs and spirals around 7½ times. It has allowed hundreds of thousands of visitors the fun and adventure of descending deep into the largest single cave chamber in California!
|Ages 12 & Up||$23|
|Military discount||10% off|
Expedition tours are NOW OPEN! Reservations required. Tour leaves at 10 am. Call (209) 736-2708 now to book your reservation. Space is limited.
Our Expedition Tour is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life! THIS IS NOT AN EASY, WALKING TOUR! Most areas of this tour are undeveloped parts of the cave which means there are no lights, stairs, or walkways. Instead, visitors daringly explore by climbing and belly crawling with lighted helmets find their way!
Expedition Tours are offered all year with a reservation and are conducted by experienced, highly trained guides. No experience is necessary and all gear for the Expedition Tour is provided.
Participants must be at least 12 years old and all minors must be accompanied by an adult. The Expedition Tour makes an exceptional team building activity and your group will explore the small cracks and crevasses below the main chamber, crawling, wriggling, and squirming through natural passages. This extended cavern trip is perfect for those who desire something more than a walk. Plan on 1/2 day for the tour, but time varies by group size & individual abilities.
|Ages 12 & Up||$130|
|Military discount||10% off|
What to expect and FAQs
Regardless of the outside temperature and weather, the cavern environment is a constant 61°F/16°C with mild to high humidity. In addition to the warm conditions, you will warm up going down and then back up the 235 steps. Most people are fine in short sleeves and shorts. However, those who get cold easily may want to bring a sweater or light jacket.
Requires special clothing and gear. This information is given to you when you make a reservation.
Front baby carriers are permitted. Strollers and baby backpacks are not allowed.
Elevate your tour
Pan for gold! Test your Axe Throwing skills! Shop for souvenirs! Fun activities for the whole family!