Pettyjohn Cave is a great starting point for inexperienced cavers. While it’s got plenty of amazing features (such as waterfalls and unique formations) it’s also relatively safe and easy to traverse, which makes it the perfect cave for beginners to train on.
That being said, there are some things you need to know before going. This is not a place you want to be unprepared for, and going in uninformed is risky and dangerous. I’ve put together a brief list of the most important information about the cave, and hopefully it’ll help you plan your trip.
1. About the Cave
Pettyjohn Cave is a well known, heavily visited cave. It is the third largest cave in Georgia, with a whopping 6.5 miles of underground trails. It’s located in the state-owned Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area, along with many other caves.
The free-to-visit cave has much to offer, and it’s no surprise why it gets so many visitors. It’s home to tons of features, including speleothems, intriguing passages, waterfalls, and more.
Although Pettyjohn Cave is considered an easy cave, it’s still best to proceed with caution. Tons of people get injured here every year, and most of the injuries are from avoidable causes. They’re usually the direct result of insufficient gear and knowledge, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into ahead of time.
Previous visitors have left many ropes and lines in the cave. Even if they look sturdy, it’s best not to trust them. The last thing you want to do is fall.
The most important thing you can take away from this article is to never cave alone, always tell somebody where you’re going, and tell them when you plan to be back. If you don’t, and you end up in an accident, you’ll have little chance of being rescued.
3. Proper Equipment
As a wise woman once said, it’s better to be prepared and whelmed than it is to be under-prepared and overwhelmed. Without proper gear, danger is right around the corner, so wear your protective clothes and don’t forget your extra batteries. For your own safety, wear AT LEAST these items:
- Two other sources of light (extra headlamp, flashlight, knuckle lights, etc.)
- Hiking boots or wellies
- Warm synthetic clothes (nylon/polyester)
- Knee protectors
Side note: Expect to get very muddy. Pettyjohn Cave is known for having lots and lots of mud, so don’t wear clothes you don’t wanna get dirty.
4. What to Bring
Over-packing is a big no-no when it comes to caving. (and most outdoor activities for that matter)
Bringing that huge tactical first aid kit may seem like a good idea, but unless you’re traveling with a big group, it’s just gonna weigh you down. Ounces add up quickly, and you don’t wanna be lugging around a heavy pack for hours.
That being said, there are certain items that should always be taken with you when caving, no matter what. These include:
- Bag (drawstring and buckle closure are best)
- Food (calorie dense, easy to eat food such as trail mix and beef jerky)
- Basic first aid kit
- Extra batteries (in a waterproof container)
- Trash bag (which can be converted into a waterproof poncho)
5. When to Go
The public is free to visit Pettyjohn Cave, almost all day every day. The only time it’s closed is during firearm deer season.
As always, check weather reports before caving. Don’t enter a cave when there is rain predicted in the area.
6. Getting There
The cave is located on the eastern side of Pigeon Mountain, in Walker County, Georgia. Pettyjohn Cave isn’t on Google Maps, so you’ll have to use written instructions instead. Here are the directions to the cave: (which you can also find at Show Caves)
- Drive to LaFayette, Georgia (you can use Google Maps for that)
- From Lafayette, take Hwy 193 west 2.7 miles to Chamberlain Rd
- Turn left and go 3 miles to Rocky Lane Rd
- Turn right and go 0.3 mile to check station.
- Rocky Lane is an unpaved single lane road. If you don’t think your car can drive that, you can park at the turnoff and walk 10 minutes to the cave.
(The GPS Coordinates are: 34° 39′ 53.74″ N, 85° 21′ 49.4″ W)
7. Cave Entrance & Passages
The entrance to Pettyjohn Cave is approximately 4 ft in diameter and is made of smooth weathered rock. Once passed, it leads down an easy 9 ft climb into the main chamber of the cave.
The cave contains many passages, some of which are only known by those who have a cave survey. If you plan to visit these more secluded crawlways, print and take a survey with you.
Also, as a rule of thumb, you should take a cave survey with you if one is available. It’s essentially a map, and while it’s never a bad thing to have one, it can be dangerous if you don’t.
You’ll find one for Pettyjohn Cave here, on the CAPS homepage.
8. Worm Tube & Echo Room
The Worm Tube is 200 ft of very tight passage. It leads to the Echo Room, which is the largest room of the cave, with staggering 100 by 200 ft dimensions. You might have a tough time getting to the Echo Room, but it’s easily one of the best features in the cave.
9. The Bridge Room
The Bridge Room is the perfect spot for a quick break and makeshift picnic. It has a nice ambience, and you can relax and listen to the stream that’s 80 ft bellow. The room also provides access to a waterfall and back sections of the cave via crossing the bridge.
If you like waterfalls, Pettyjohn Cave is for you. The cave has two waterfalls, both of which are well-sized. One is a larger, loud waterfall that is about 4 ft high. The other is smaller, and you must climb over it to reach the Labyrinth.
The cave contains many formations, spread out all over the cave. There are various types, such as stalagmites, stalactites, pillars, flowstones, cave pearls, cave popcorn, and more.
The area with the largest amount of formations is the Entrance Room. You’ll find others throughout the cave.
If you like bats, visit Pettyjohn Cave during winter. During the colder season, the cave is home to Tricolored bats and Little brown bats who come to hibernate. Other animals make this cave their home, such as the Pigeon Mountain Salamander and various types of insects.
You’re free to take as many photos as you’d like during your trip to Pettyjohn Cave. If you meet other cavers, always be respectful, and don’t photograph them without their permission.
Pettyjohn Cave is an exciting place to explore.
It has much to offer and is well worth a visit. Hopefully this list has helped prepare you, and has answered some of your questions. Now that you know what you’re getting yourself into, I have no doubt you’ll have a fun, safe trip!
Hi, I'm Ash!
I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.