The 100-ft waterfall at the end of the guided tour at Secret Caverns New York is the highlight of the visit to this show cave.

Let me tell you about Secret Caverns New York

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Visiting New York City

We love visiting New York city. Growing up, my family made the 8-hour drive from the outskirts of Toronto to New York city many times throughout the year to visit family. With every visit, we would explore a different park, museum, or neighborhood. New York city has so much to offer,

I don’t think it would be possible to see everything even in a lifetime of visits. I have passed this love for New York to my children.  Their favorite is definitely spending Christmas in New York City. They even like to chime on about which places to eat when in New York City. But on a recent road trip we discovered Secret Caverns New York and we realized there is much more to discover!

View of Central Park showing the pond and the surrounding skycrappers of New York City.

Waterfalls and Caves in New York State

Our long-weekend trip to Watkins Glen State Park really opened up our eyes to the amazing nature that is abundant in New York. So, we have it our mission to discover places that are within a few hours driving distance from Toronto, Canada.

As we were researching for more waterfalls in the area to visit, we found a secret! Located deep within a cave, was a waterfall, hidden from view, but open to the public for visitation. As we love visiting caves with kids, off we went on a 5.5 hr road trip from Toronto to Howes Cave, New York.

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The 100 ft waterfall is located within Secret Caverns in Howes Cave, New York. It is the final attraction in this New York show cave. But I am getting ahead of myself! So, let me start from the beginning. The drive from Toronto to Howes Cave was mostly on multi-lane highways.

We chose to take the interstate highway, I-90, which is a toll highway in New York, to speed up the drive. At less than $10 for the toll we felt it was definitely worth the time it saved us. The final 30 or so kilometers was on rolling country roads. The kids enjoyed seeing all the farm animals lazing around.

One of the famous hand drawn billboards you drive by on your way to Secret Caverns New York.

As we got closer to Cobleskill, the town where Secret Caverns is located, we started seeing the infamous billboard signs promoting Secret Caverns. We had read about the history of the signs at the Secret Caverns website. Each sign is unique and artistically decorated by hand by the guides.

Tour of Secret Caverns

At the time of our visit, Secret Caverns was open from 11 am – 3 pm. Reservations ahead of time was not necessary.  Tours were conducted every half an hour; more often if it is busier. They are open year round and only close when inclement weather causes flooding into the cave.

The entire journey underground is less than 1km (0.5 miles) and takes approximately 1 hour. The tour starts at the lodge where you buy your tickets. According to the story, the caves were discovered when cows accidentally fell into the cavern in 1928.

The entrance to Secret Caverns New York is as colorful as the infamous billboards they have lining the route to the entrance.

The “original” entrance is now blocked off. Instead, we descended down 103 steps to the concrete floor. I could immediately feel the temperature difference. It was a warm day out at 29ºC.

But the cave interior was 10°C, as always. As we climbed lower it was easy to see the different layers of exposed limestone. The guide also pointed out some fossils when our group had all reached the bottom.

Secret Caverns New York can be visited by joining a tour which are led by highly informative guides.

Interesting Formations in Secret Caverns

We explored the length of the cave in single file. There were 10 people in our group (including us). I was told that the tour group is normally kept to less than 20 people.

This is great as the cave was a lot narrower than I had anticipated. There were also spots with low hanging ceilings. Secret Caverns New York is definitely not for the claustrophobic.

The interior of Secret Caverns New York is all lit up and is one of the 3 show caves in the state.

Secret Caverns Waterfall

As we neared the waterfall, I was surprised that the sound of the falling water was not more obvious. Except for the tell-tale signs of the mist, I would not have known that a 30 m (100 ft) waterfall was just around the corner.

The 100-ft waterfall at the end of the guided tour at Secret Caverns New York is the highlight of the visit to this show cave.

The tour is not a loop so after getting our fill of the waterfall, we headed back the same way we came in.

Tips for Visiting Secret Caverns New York

  • Wear a light jacket. The temperature in the cave is constantly 10°C.
  • Wear running shoes or hikers. If it has been raining, many parts of the cave will be wet and slippery so open toed footwear is not recommended.
  • There is no need to bring a flashlight or headlamp. Secret Caverns is a show cave which means the cave is lit up.
  • Light snacks and drinks are available for purchase at the entrance lodge. However, there are many picnic tables by the parking area so it is possible to eat a boxed lunch comfortably.
  • The caves can sometimes be inaccessible due to weather conditions. If unsure, check the Secret Caverns Facebook page which posts updates whenever the caves will be closed to the public.

Christina-and-C-walk-through-the-narrow-paths-of-Secret-Caverns-in-Howes-Caves-New-York

Show Caves of New York

Secret Caverns was definitely worth the drive from Toronto to Howes Cave, New York. It’s a family friendly cave tour and our guide went out of her way to make the tour even more entertaining for C and D.

But our tour of New York’s show caves is not over yet. Just 4 km (2 mi) from Secret Caverns was another cave system, Howe Caverns. And while it didn’t have an underground waterfall, the cavern is explored partly by boat! What is your favorite show cave?

Boy admiring the shadows cast by the lights at Secret Caverns New York, one of the best show caves we have visited.

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About the Author

Christina Wagar grew up in a travel loving family. She strives to instil her love of learning about different cultures and seeing new and old places to her husband Kevin and their two young boys. Having experienced over 20 countries across 4 continents Christina is well versed at travel planning and thrives on sharing that information with others with the hopes of encouraging more families to experience this incredible world that we live in.

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Christina,

    I love those signs! Reminds me quite a bit of those South of the Border signs leading up to the touristy whack job type spot between North Carolina and South Carolina on I-95.Come Meet Pedro….all those silly slogans, the garish colors and the over the top tackiness that pique your interest. The caverns seem like so much fun too.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Ryan

  2. Whoa, looks like so much fun! We just explored some caves in Missouri and I posted a picture of my daughter with the caption, “Kids love caves!” Isn’t it so true??

  3. WHAT?! I had NO IDEA these secret caverns existed! They’re right on our path for our summer road trip, so we will have to check them out in person!

  4. We just went to both Secret Caverns and Howe’s Caverns during Spring Break. I had no idea either of these existed until about 6 months ago. They are both an Amazing Sight to See. Our Favorite parts of Howe’s Caverns was the boat ride and The Bridal Altar. Howe’s Caverns is much more commercialized and more easily accessible. A hoodie and sneakers or hiking boots would be your best bet. Secret Caverns has a Long set of steep slippery stairs to get in​ and out. I would not recommend bringing small children Especially those that need to be carried. Our trip to the Caverns and Cobleskill was not complete without The Mining Company, Stewart’s Shops for their own unique ice cream flavors, and Justine’s. If You Love Italian food be sure you bring Your appetite!

    1. Those are great tips. I totally agree that the stairs in Secret Caverns are very steep and I ended up carrying our 3-year-old, although mostly because he was holding up the group 🙂 I wish I had known about the Ice Cream shop, that would have been a great stop!

  5. Growing up in Central New York I have visited Howe Caverns many times. This past month I had family visiting from down south, they wanted to go to Howe Caverns. We enjoyed our tour but will agree that HC is very commercial and corporate, our quite basically read from a script and had no personality. On our way home we chanced upon Secret Caverns. How I had never heard of them before was amazing. We decided to take a detour and a quite pleasant one at that. We LOVED Secret Caverns! It was so much more fun and interactive. We had a group of 9 with children ranging from 6yrs to 15 yrs. Everyone had an awesome time and liked it even more than our earlier tour at HC. As my daughter says “you have to go to Howe Caverns first to really appreciate Secret Caverns”. It was a definite win and I have told everyone about it… I guess it’s not a secret anymore!

    1. That is a great summary of the two. Howe Caverns is certainly impressive and far more expansive, but the personality of Secret Caverns really makes it stand out as a fun and engaging destination!

  6. Picture it: your kids. My kids. race to see which set gets through the caverns first. Just a thought…

    Actually, really cool place. It’s rare to tour a cavern with a waterfall that’s more than a steady trickle, so I’m totally intrigued. Have you guys done Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana? It’s a fav for us. OOoooh, summer 2018….

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