Meramec Caverns are a sight to behold.
They’re filled with complex mineral deposits, have a rich historic past, and contain some of the world’s rarest cave formations. If you’re looking for an exciting trip, look no more – but there are things you should know before visiting. I’ll give you some info to help you plan and make the most of your trip!
1. Cave Tours
Guided tours led by informative, highly trained rangers allow you to behold the raw beauty of Meramec Caverns. You’ll walk through 1 ¼ miles of vast caverns filled with breathtaking formations, such as the world’s rarest cave structure, the Wine Table.
Tours leave every 20-30 minutes, and on average take an hour and twenty minutes to complete. The price of the tour is $22 for adults, $12 for children 5-11, and free for children 4 and under. Group rates are also available for 15 or more people if reserved in advance.
There are no bathrooms inside the caverns, so I’d recommend using the restroom before going on a tour. You can’t take strollers in the cave because of tiny grooves in the walkways, so if you’ve got little ones, plan to use carriers. The caverns are open every day of the year, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see them.
2. Zip Lining
This fun experience is available via Caveman Zipline. The tour includes four different zip line runs, three intermittent sky bridge walks, and is open March through October. The length of the tour can vary, so they recommend allowing 30 to 90 minutes to complete your zip line tour.
Prices are $49 for adults, $39 for children ages 10-12, and $39 for active military. Reservations are highly encouraged as walk-ins are based on availability. For everyone’s safety, restrictions are in place, including the weight requirement of 80-270 lbs, and the ban on pregnant women. For more information, head to Caveman Zipline.
3. Canoe Floats
You can float down the Meramec River in a canoe, kayak, or raft to see beautiful natural scenery. Cavern Canoe and Raft Rental offers two different floats – an 11-mile float, and a 6-mile float. Both tours are scenic and offer ample opportunity to settle down on one of the sandbars and relax.
They differ in that – you guessed it – one is 11 miles long, and the other is 6. They start at different locations at different times of the day, and during the 11-mile float, you’ll have opportunities to get out of your vessel and swim. You’ll also be able to explore Green’s Cave – the only catch is that the 11-mile float is recommended for experienced floaters, so if you’re unpracticed, maybe stick to the 6-mile float.
Prices vary depending on your boat of choice and day of the week. Canoes are $40 Sunday-Friday and $45 on Saturdays and Holiday Weekends. They can fit up to 3 people, but the third person costs an additional $15. Kayaks are $30 every day of the week, and can only carry one person.
Rafts are more pricey and vary from $84-$240 depending on the raft chosen and how many people are in it. Reservations are not mandatory but are recommended on high traffic days such as Saturdays and Sundays.
4. Riverboat Rides
Another choice is to unwind and relax on a 30-minute historic riverboat excursion. According to America’s Cave, they have two boats, named Cavern Queen I and Cavern Queen II, that both have a 25 passenger max.
They run April through September, depending on weather and river conditions. Ride costs are $10 for adults, $7 for children 5-11, and group rates are available.
5. What to Wear
The cave is at a constant 58 degrees due to it being so far underground, so if that seems chilly, it might be a good idea to bring a jacket. The tour is 1 ¼ miles round trip, with sections of it being damp and sloped, so it’s recommended that you wear comfortable non-slip shoes.
6. What to Bring
It depends on what you’re doing at Meramec Caverns. If you’re camping or canoeing, it’s a good idea to bring at least the essentials – a map and/or compass, water, food, flashlight/headlamp, first aid kit, knife, sun protection, and a pack.
If you’re only going for the cave tour itself, you’d be able to get by with just the clothes on your back and a camera to take pictures. Food and drink aren’t allowed in the cave anyway, so it wouldn’t be necessary. If you’re worried you’ll get the munchies, a restaurant is located in the cave’s mouth that serves home-style cooking, snacks, and ice cream.
7. When to Visit
Don’t visit during the middle of the day. It’s packed and is often hosting field trips during this time. If you’re going on a cavern tour, it’s best to go on an early or late tour. Otherwise, you’re risking having such a large group you’ll never hear what your guide is saying and you’ll be looking over fifty phones and cameras.
8. Light Show
At the end of each cave tour, guests are lead to the Stage Curtain – a 70 foot tall cave formation – to view a state-of-the-art light show. It’s dedicated to members of the United States Armed Forces, police forces, and firefighters.
The experience is best described as a bright, colorful, patriotic, audiovisual light show. The backdrop is the actual cave formation too, which adds an extra layer of wow.
9. Cave Safety & Bats
Meramec Caverns is home to bats. This may seem off-putting, but they will not harm or pose a threat to anyone. I doubt you’d even see them – the cave is so big that sightings are very unlikely.
You don’t have to worry about general cave safety either. The caverns undergo strict inspections to make sure they are safe for all guests, including children. With this in mind, also remember that no matter how many measures are taken, accidents can happen, so we should always use common sense and be cautious.
You’re in luck – it’s free. It’s also easy to find a spot because the parking lot is so huge. You may have a far walk to the cave entrance on busy days though.
If you want more than a day trip, Meramec Caverns Natural Campground might be for you. They’re basic campgrounds, complete with lots of shade trees, fire pits, quaint covered picnic areas, and a playground for the youngsters.
The best part is that they run right along the Meramec River, so you’ll have great views and water access. They’re also within walking distance of Meramec Caverns, showers, restrooms, and a concession stand.
The campgrounds are open from the beginning of April, till the end of October, and they only take reservations for sites with electric hookups. Rates vary depending on what site you’re wanting. Primitive sites run $19 a night, per tent and sites with electric hookup run $30 a night, per tent/RV.
Pets are banned only in the cave itself. They’re allowed everywhere else as long as they are kept on a leash and are quiet at night. You won’t be able to take your pet on the tour with you, but Meramec Caverns offers a free kennel service to house your pets while you’re touring the cave. The kennels are 4×6 and have shaded concrete floors. You’ll either need to bring your own lock and key or pay a refundable fee of $6 to rent them. The staff at Meramec Caverns recommend that you bring food, water bowls, favorite toys, or whatever will make your pet more comfortable.
13. Handicap Accessibility
Meramec Caverns are not handicap accessible. This is because of narrow, rough walkways, and a flight of stairs. You should take this into account if you or anyone you are traveling with has impaired mobility.
14. Pan for Gold
A choice for the kiddos is to pan for minerals, arrowheads, fossils, and gemstones at The Meramec Mining Company. Costs vary from $7.99-$24.99 depending on what you’re mining for and how much of it you’re allowed to take home. It’s available during summer months only, but could be a fun choice.
15. Candy Store
Granny’s Candy Store is for all you dessert lovers out there. They are located in the cave’s mouth, and they offer homemade fudge by the bucketload. Their fudge runs for a reasonable $13.99 a lb, plus tax. Crazily enough, they also ship their fudge for those who don’t live in the area.
Traveling to Meramec Caverns is a unique experience that can be great or not-so-great, depending on how prepared you are before visiting. Now that you’ve done a little research though, you’ll have a blast.
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.