Where is Cathedral Caverns State Park
Located in the northern region of the state, Cathedral Caverns State Park resides entirely within the state of Alabama. The state park’s primary feature is the caverns and an area referred to as Bats Cave. However, the state park also contains hiking trails, a visitor center, areas designated for picnicking, and a campground. The closest cities to Cathedral Caverns State Park are Marshall, Grant, and Kennamer Cove, Alabama. The state park is located 161 miles (about a three hour and fifteen-minute drive) west of Atlanta, Georgia. Cathedral Park is 93 miles (about an hour and forty-five-minute drive) north of Birmingham, Alabama. And the park is 31 miles (about a thirty-minute drive) south of Huntsville, Alabama. The state park also resides near several other outdoor recreation areas. These areas include Buck’s Pocket State Park, Lake Guntersville State Park, and Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge.
How Large is Cathedral Caverns State Park
Cathedral Caverns State Park covers a total of over 460 acres. The park’s geography mainly includes underground caves and caverns and hardwood forests and meadows above ground. The Cathedral Caverns are a karst cave that includes a large stalagmite forest. Around 11,000 feet of Cathedral Caverns has been explored and surveyed. Some of the most significant features of the caverns include Goliath, the Big Room, and the caverns entrance. The Goliath feature is one of the largest stalagmites in the world. The features measure 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference. The main entrance to Cathedral Caverns is over 25 feet tall and 128 feet wide. Many refer to this entrance as the largest entrance to any commercial cave.
Cathedral Caverns State Park Weather
The weather at Cathedral Caverns State Park changes frequently throughout the year. In summer, temperatures in the park average between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter temperatures in the park average between 25 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest days of the year appear in Cathedral Caverns State Park in June, July, and August. The coldest days in the park arrive in December and January. On average, Cathedral Caverns State Park and the surrounding area receives around 85 days of rain per year. These 85 days of rain normally result in a total of around 60 inches of rain per year. The park also occasionally sees snowfall during the winter months of the year. The yearly snowfall average for the park is around three inches.
When did Cathedral Caverns Become a State Park
Cathedral Caverns State Park first became a state park in 2000. However, the Cathedral Caverns received some recognition years before. In 1972, the Cathedral Caverns were first designated and declared a National Natural Landmark. The park was also a popular tourist attraction throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. The area was developed into a state park by the Alabama government to ensure the protection of the karst cave and its features and promote public education and exploration of the area. Cathedral Caverns State Park is managed and maintained by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Things to do in Cathedral Caverns State Park
Visitors arriving at Cathedral Caverns State Park will first be enamored by the sheer size and magnificence of Cathedral Caverns. However, visitors will also soon find several other activities including hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing present in the park. The most popular and interesting adventures found within Cathedral Caverns State Park are listed below.
Explore the Visitor Center
The visitor center at Cathedral Caverns State Park is the perfect place for visitors to start their Alabama park adventure. The visitor center can disrupt information regarding the park, the caverns, camping, and hiking to visitors. Educational displays and exhibits found throughout the park will also provide visitors with information regarding the park’s ecology, history, and cultural ties. Visitors looking to gain answers to specific questions can also utilize knowledgeable park staff who work throughout the visitor center.
Join an Interpretive Program
After visitors explore the Cathedral Caverns State Park visitor center, they should look to join one or more interpretive programs offered by the state park. These programs discuss a variety of topics, but normally relate to the park’s ecology, geology, or geography. All programs offered within Cathedral Caverns State Park are hosted by knowledgeable staff or park volunteers. The schedule for these events varies from week to week but can be found on the park’s website or in the visitor center.
Embark on a Cave Tour
Visitors at Cathedral Caverns State Park will most likely want to learn more about the park’s most notable feature. The state park offers several tours into Cathedral Caverns that allow visitors to walk inside of the caverns and learn about the caverns and its features. More information regarding the park’s cave tours can be found online on the park’s website or at the park’s visitors center.
Hike a Trail in the Park
In addition to the trail’s visitors can explore underground in Cathedral Caverns State Park, the park also maintains several trails that traverse a variety of ecosystems found above ground in the park. These trails vary in difficulty and length. Visitors looking for current trail conditions and difficulty can ask park staff working in the visitor center for more information regarding the park’s trails.
Take a Picnic Break
Cathedral Caverns State Park manages and maintains several areas where visitors can enjoy a relaxing and replenishing picnic. These sites normally are set against the park’s woodlands and include picnic tables, iron grills, and restrooms.
Across the 460 acres of Cathedral Caverns State Park several wildlife species reside. The surrounding area also supports a variety of wildlife. The most common species spotted throughout Cathedral Caverns State Park include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, rabbits, hawks, eagles, and a variety of songbirds. Additional information regarding the park’s wildlife species can be obtained from the park’s visitor center.
Camping in Cathedral Caverns State Park
The campground at Cathedral Caverns State Park contains several sites designed with electrical and water hookups, as well as a few sites better suited for primitive tent camping. All of these campsites can be reserved through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to visit the park during peak season should make their reservations several weeks in advance.
When to Visit Cathedral Caverns State Park
Cathedral Caverns State Park is open year-round, and visitors can plan a trip to the park throughout the year. The best time to visit Cathedral Caverns State Park is during the spring and summer. During these months, temperatures in the park are best suited for outdoor recreation and enjoyment. In the spring, wildlife in the park is most active. In the fall, the surrounding area experiences changes in color and climate.
Must Have Items to Bring to Cathedral Caverns State Park
Visitors looking to plan a trip to Cathedral Caverns State Park will want to keep a few items in mind while packing. The following list includes several essential items visitors won't want to forget when they visit the park.
Water & Snacks
Water and snacks are two essential items every visitor should make sure they bring along with to Cathedral Caverns State Park. The average person should pack one to two liters for every hour they plan to spend recreating in the sun. The best snacks for hiking and other outdoor recreation activities are lightweight, easy to consume, and energy packed. Beef jerky and trail mix are great options.
Sturdy Hiking Boots
Every visitor planning to hike down a trail at Cathedral Caverns State Park should come prepared with a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Visitors looking to go on a cave tour should also bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots to keep them comfortable and safe.
Wildlife Field Guides & Binoculars
Visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the various wildlife species that call Cathedral Caverns State Park and the surrounding area home will want to bring along an Alabama or North America specific field guide. The best field guides include color photos and lengthy descriptions that make identification simple and effortless.
Visitors planning to embark on one of the cave tours offered at Cathedral Caverns State Park will want to bring a set of old clothes to the park. The cave tours at Cathedral Caverns State Park can occasionally leave visitors with stained shoes and clothes. These old clothes will come in handy and ensure nothing valuable gets damaged while exploring the cave.
Where to Stay Near Cathedral Caverns State Park
Visitors looking to stay within Cathedral Caverns State Park can make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel in the surrounding area can look for options in Marshall, Grant, or Kennamer Cove. Visitors looking to stay in a larger city can make the drive to either Birmingham or Huntsville.
Food Near Cathedral Caverns State Park
The closest food to Cathedral Caverns State Park is located in Marshall, Grant, and Kennamer Cove. These cities contain a host of restaurants and a few grocery stores that visitors can visit to grab a meal or stock up on supplies. Visitors looking for a larger culinary scene will want to make the drive to Birmingham or Huntsville. These cities contain numerous restaurants, bars, and grocery stores that are sure to suit every visitor's needs.
Airports Near Cathedral Caverns State Park
The closest international airport to Cathedral Caverns State Park is located in Birmingham. The Birmingham International Airport is 87 miles and about an hour and forty-five-minute drive away from the park. The next closest international airport to Cathedral Caverns State Park is located in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located 178 miles and a three hour and thirty-minute drive southeast of Cathedral Caverns State Park.