Minnesota has several caves, and most maintain pleasant temperatures all year round, making them a welcome escape from scorching heat or freezing cold.
Some of Minnesota's caves are show caves and open to visitors, some are only open to technical caving expeditions. Here's a list of publicly accessible caves in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
The closest public cave for urban explorers, the Wasbasha Street Caves
are man-made, but have a rich history involving bootlegging, mobsters and ghost stories. Today the caves are open to the public for tours, and special events like swing dance night. The caves are located a couple of minutes from downtown St. Paul.
Head south on I-35 towards Harmony, on the Minnesota-Iowa border. Niagara Cave
is close to the cute little town of Harmony, and tours will take visitors to see fascinating underground formations, a 60-foot waterfall, strange rock formations, and fossils.
Niagara Cave is open for regular public tours from early spring through late fall.
Mystery Cave is part of Forestville State Park in south eastern Minnesota, and this cave has 13 miles of passages, making it the longest discovered cave in Minnesota.
Mystery Cave offers three public tours, one is scenic, and stroller/ADA accessible. The scenic tour is offered daily during the summer.
And for those 8 and over, there are some more rugged tours to explore other parts of the cave, usually offered at the weekends.
Forestville State Park also has other attractions, like a restored 1800s village, fishing, hiking, and camping in the park.
Crystal Cave is in western Wisconin, about an hour east of St. Paul. Cave tours are available to the public from early spring through late fall.
Planning on a trip to the Wisconsin Dells? Then this cave would be an easy trip. The Cave of the Mounds
is a National Natural Landmark for the variety of colorful rock and crystal formations underground. The Cave of the Mounds is open year-round, and regular public tours are available.
In northern Minnesota, this isn't a cave, rather a mine - but still a fascinating opportunity to visit the underground world. There are two aspects to Soudan Underground Mine
- the first is to explore the abandoned iron ore mine workings. The second is to catch a glimpse of the current use of the mine - a high-energy physics laboratory.
Soudan Underground Mine is part of a Minnesota State Park, but admission to the park is free to the public. There is a fee for mine tours. Tours run regularly throughout the summer.
Visiting a cave, other than a publicly accessible cave during a scheduled tour, can be extremely dangerous. Low oxygen levels, rockfalls, sewage, getting lost, losing your light, and many other hazards, all have the potential to be deadly. Your presence in a cave can also be fatal for bats and other animals who live in caves.
Technical caving skills, appropriate equipment, and knowledgeable companions are needed to visit caves safely and responsibly. The Minnesota Speleological Society is an organization dedicated to exploring caves safely, and with a backpacker-style "leave no trace" ethic. You can get more information on how to join at the MSS website.