Spelunking through crystal caverns at Longhorn Cavern State Park

The Hill Country site was once home to an underground dance hall, an ancient river, and a church.

Inside a cave, with lights highlighting the craggy interior.

Walk through the path of an ancient underground river at Longhorn Cavern State Park.

Photo by ATXtoday

What if we told you you could escape the heat, see crystal hallways, chandeliers, and a Queen’s throne room, all while walking through one of Central Texas’ most compelling historic sites?

We’re not talking about some kind of Hill Country palace — at least, not literally. We’re talking about Longhorn Cavern State Park, the next stop on our year-long journey to explore local state parks.


Longhorn Cavern’s history begins in prehistoric Texas, when locals of the time used the cave — formed by an ancient underground river — for shelter and council meetings.

White settlers found the cave in the mid-1800s. Initially, it was a source of production: miners sourced the cave’s bat guano to make gunpowder during the Civil War.

Post-war, it didn’t take long for word of the spectacular site to get around. By the 1920s, the cave was a tourist site, concert venue, and dance hall.

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps rolled in with pickaxes and wheelbarrows to clear out the cave, removing 3,000 dump trucks full of debris. It took them eight years.

Longhorn Cavern opened in 1938 and was declared a National Landmark in 1971.

A large black and white photos of a band playing inside the caves is set up inside Longhorn Cavern.

Photos show visitors the bands that played in Longhorn Cavern when some its caverns were used for dancing and music.

Photo by ATXtoday

What to see

Why the caves, of course.

When you enter the caverns, you’ll find yourself spotting pieces of Texas history in every corner as you walk through narrow and ballroom-sized spaces seeing ancient stones.

Reader Laurie E. says to keep your eyes and ears peeled for “the chamber that was once a bar on Saturday night and a church on Sunday morning.”

What to do

You can walk a nature trail and do some picnicking at Longhorn Cavern State Park, but there’s really one showstopper at this Hill Country gem, and that’s a cave tour. Here’s how to book:

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