Route 66 in the News

Best Caves Along Route 66

2012-04-26 08:17:17

If you are traveling the country by highway, Route 66 will take you all the way from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean. Although much of the old road is gone, there are still plenty of landmarks to explore along the way, some much older than the roads themselves. Exploring the caves along Route 66 is a summer activity that should not be missed.

Besides being great exercise, the average temperature inside the caves on this list is in the upper 50's all year round. That makes a Route 66 cave adventure the perfect getaway on a hot summer day.

Meramec Caverns

Perhaps the most famous caves along Route 66 are the Meramec Caverns located near Stanton, Missouri between St. Louis and Rolla. The caverns are the largest in Missouri, and have been open to the public for nearly 80 years. They were once a hideout to the legendary outlaw, Jesse James. Now, Meramec Caverns are available for public tours year round and feature many other amenities including camp grounds, a zip line, riverboat tours, and canoe trips along the scenic Meramec River. Admission is a bit pricey, but the views are truly spectacular.

Onondaga State Park

A few miles west of the Meramec Caverns, near Leasburg, Missouri, you will find the Onondaga State Park, home of both the Onondaga and the Cathedral Caves. You can choose to tour one or both caves, but plan carefully as they are open only from April through October. The Onondaga Cave was opened as a tourist attraction along the Frisco railroad over 100 years ago and was the subject of land disputes for decades until it became part of the Missouri state park system. The Cathedral Cave is more primitive and difficult to explore, and was first mapped in the 1940's by a pair of female students. It, too, eventually became part of the Onondaga State Park.

Bridal Cave

One of the most beautiful caves in Missouri lies about 30 miles north of Lebanon in Camdenton. Although Bridal Cave is a bit off the path of Route 66, it is an easy drive and worth the views. According to Osage legend, Bridal Cave was the place where two young lovers were wed after a tale that rivals Romeo and Juliet. More than 2000 couples have been married in the stalactite rich Bridal Cave, and you can, too, if you choose to purchase one of their wedding packages.

Fantastic Caverns

Visitors to Fantastic Caverns can ride in comfort through the entire tour, which is handicap accessible and very child friendly. The only ride through caves in America, Fantastic Caverns are indeed fantastic. The cave is open year round to visitors with tours running every half hour or so through the day. Located in Springfield, Missouri, the caverns were discovered during the Civil War, but were not fully explored until a few years later when 12 women answered an ad looking for adventure. Admission to Fantastic Caverns is higher than any other cave on this list, but these are the only fully accessible caverns for all explorers of all ages and abilities.

~Tavia Fuller Armstrong, via


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