Is there really any way to improve upon a natural wonder that has already thrilled visitors for 140 years? If the natural wonder is Luray Caverns, the answer is yes.
On May 20th, Luray Caverns realized a decades-long goal of eliminating the remaining steps on the 1.25-mile tour route in the world-renowned attraction. The only steps leading from the Entrance Lobby into the caverns have been bypassed by excavating a 164-foot tunnel into the hillside adjacent to the Entrance Building. A looping covered walkway connects the existing building to the new entrance. The exterior appearance of the historic Entrance Building has not been altered, and the new entrance and walkway maintain the cosmetic elements of the existing structure for a consistent outward appearance.
The 141-year-old attraction began removing steps and improving walkways with brick, concrete and ramps throughout the caverns in 1954 — a process that was completed in 1975. A major component of this undertaking in order to totally finish the effort – the steps into the building – remained elusive due to uncertain methods and cost.
Over the past several years, renewed efforts to achieve this monumental goal were undertaken. With new technology in construction and improved environmental safeguards, Racey Engineering of Luray and Lantz Construction of Broadway, VA provided a workable plan in March 2017 and the first tour to use the new entrance was on May 20th.
Luray Caverns currently is one of the few underground wonders providing tours on lighted, all-paved walkways with step-free entry, making the attraction more accessible to visitors.
If you have not visited Luray Caverns—or even if you have–July is an excellent month to take the family. Cool temperatures inside the cave (a near-constant 54 degrees) provide relief from the summer sun. You and your children will marvel at pools of water so clear they mirror the rocks above them. You’ll hear musical notes played on the Great Stalacpipe Organ, and view stadium-sized chambers filled with towering rock spires. Combinations of color—red, orange, brown, yellow and white—decorate the cave in a milieu of earth tones. You’ll wonder what was it like in 1878, when Andrew Campbell and his 13-year-old nephew Quint, dropped a rope and climbed down here for the first time, exploring by candlelight.
While the cave tour itself is the reason half a million people from all over the world visit, there is actually much more to see on the Caverns’ grounds. The Luray Valley Museum houses Shenandoah Valley artifacts from the 1750s to the 1920s. The Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, one of the oldest of its kind in the country, houses some of the rarest automobiles and carriages in the world. Take the kids through the half-mile Garden Maze and try to navigate a path through the eight–foot arborvitae. Or test your coordination, and your nerve, on one of three skill levels at the Rope Adventure Park. (Trained staff help every participant, and safety gear is provided.) And Toy Town Junction displays thousands of toy trains, cars, trucks, tractors, etc. that show kids what entertainment was like before video games.
Where to Stay
Many fine accommodations may be found in or near Luray. Page County is the Cabin Capital of Virginia, and hundreds of rentals are available. A few options to consider:
Luray Caverns Motels
The Mimslyn Inn, Manor House and Cottage Collection
Shenandoah National Park Lodging
All Star Lodging
A Buck’s Peak, A Buck’s Run, A Buck’s View
Country Place Lodging and Camping on the Shenandoah
Luray Mountain Cabins
Piney Hill B&B and Cottages
Shadow Mountain Escape
South Court Inn B&B