The 10 Best Caves to Explore in Canada
Some of nature’s best kept secrets are hidden away, reserved for the most curious wanderers. But you don’t have to be a hardcore adventurer to explore what lies beneath the surface. Get underground and explore these top caves in Canada.
Photo: Horne Lake Caves Park
Horne Lake Caves, British Columbia
Few people realize North America’s highest concentration of caves lies on Vancouver Island. Home to over 1,600 known caves, you can knock off four caves inside Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. Tours operated by Horne Lake Caves and Outdoor Centre offer challenges by choice, where you decide if you’re up for crawling through the beautiful passageways in search of crystal formations and ancient fossils. Open all year round at a constant temperature of 8°C (46°F), highlights include cable ladders, crossing over underground streams and optional tiny crawl spaces.
Before you go, don’t forget to check in with local tour operators and tourism authorities for the latest pandemic protocols.
Photo: Parks Canada/Ryan Bray
Cave and Basin, Alberta
When three railway workers stumbled upon this cave in 1883, it set upon a course of action that would culminate in the creation of Canada’s first national park. (Of course Indigenous Peoples had known about this particular cave brimming with mineral rich spring waters for thousands of years prior.) Cave and Basin is now a recognized National Historic Site situated in Banff National Park. Today, visitors can explore the cave filled with turquoise thermal water, and from May to September, there’s a guided lantern tour. While visitors once swam here, they now take to the waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Discover every UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada.
Rat’s Nest Cave, Alberta
Canmore Cave Tours has exclusive access to Rat’s Nest Cave, about an hour’s drive from Calgary. A designated Provincial Historic Site, this cave takes you back through some 300-million years of natural history and 3,000 years of human history. Guided tours operate year round and involve catch and release fossil hunting, plus wildlife education and tracking. You’re sure to spot animal bones and pictographs made by early Indigenous Peoples while you trek underground.
Add these 10 great day trips from Calgary to your itinerary.
Outlaw Caves, Saskatchewan
Back when the West truly was wild, rum runners and horse thieves needed a secure hiding spot to dodge the law—ideally with close access to the border. Natural caves make an ideal hiding spot and Big Muddy Badlands, just outside of Coronach, Saskatchewan was a preferred spot for outlaws back in the day. On full and half-day tours available from May to October, visitors can not only examine the hideout, but learn about the early Indigenous Peoples who lived in the region for thousands of years, as evidenced by the remaining tipi rings.
Don’t miss the historical places you need to visit in every province.
Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba
Not far from the Ontario border lies a haven for outdoor adventurers in Whiteshell Provincial Park. Part of the rugged Precambrian Shield, the park is home to two caves of distinction. With picturesque views of the lake and refreshing swimming holes, there are many highlights along the Hunt Lake Trail Cave. Most popular, however, is the tiny cave inside a vertical rock wall. With trees poking their way through the rocks, it makes for a pretty spectacular photo stop.
Accessible by boat are the Caddy Lake Tunnels, which came about after blasting through granite for the railway. Though technically not caves (because they receive direct sunlight), these caverns are simply spectacular and can easily be visited by renting a canoe or kayak from the Green Bay Resort on Lake Caddy.
Check out the best bike trail in every province.
Scenic Caves, Ontario
Carved out of glacial ice and dating back 450-million years, the Scenic Caves in Ontario’s Blue Mountains are a network of caverns, caves and lookout points formerly inhabited by Tionontati Indigenous Peoples, explorer Samuel de Champlain and even the Jesuits. Self guided tours take visitors along a trail dotted with signage explaining how the caves were used for different purposes. The first cave you’ll come across is a natural refrigerator thanks to the steady flow of cold air, while the cave next to it is dubbed the ice cave with deep crevices that could keep snow and ice all year long. Fern Cavern is where you’ll find exotic vegetation. Afterwards, stroll along southern Ontario’s longest suspension bridge or hit the zip lines for an adrenaline jolt.
Here are six hidden gems in Ontario you need to visit right now.
Laflèche Cavern, Quebec
Luckily for families, the largest natural cave in the Canadian Shield is located within Arbraska Laflèche Park, about a two hour drive from Ottawa. The park is riddled with invigorating outdoor experiences that range from the tops of trees to deep underground. And underground is where anyone over the age of five is welcome to go year-round on discovery tours. After clambering up the chimney (that’s caving lingo for a steep, narrow climb) and crouching through low passageways, you’ll marvel at the frozen stalactites and stalagmites, and can view too many hibernating bats to count.
Don’t leave the province before visiting these hidden gems in Quebec.
St. Martins Sea Caves, New Brunswick
The tides that flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world. This significant tidal action has carved deep fissures and crevasses into the cliffs hugging New Brunswick’s Fundy coastline, leading to the formation of St. Martins sandstone sea caves. A haven for rockhounds, birdwatchers and nature lovers, these impressive natural grottos are best explored at low tide, so be sure to consult a tide chart to gauge the best time of day to walk the ocean floor.
These natural wonders across Canada will take your breath away.
Ovens, Natural Park, Nova Scotia
Not far from Lunenburg on Nova Scotia’s Southern Shore lies Ovens Natural Park. During the summer season, visitors can take guided and self-guided tours along the cliffside trails to view the stunning sea caves which vary in size. Many of these jagged caverns were formed naturally, but some were expanded by dynamite during the 1861 gold rush. On guided one-hour tours, you’ll dive deep into the park’s coastal environment and dramatic geology, in addition to learning about the region’s surprising gold rush history.
These destinations are the best places for stargazing across Canada.
Corner Brook, Newfoundland
The west coast of Newfoundland is a trove of natural wonders and the Corner Brook Caves are no exception. Tours with Cycle Solutions allow explorers eight-years and older to experience this subterranean world. For the adventurous sort, there are small passages to squeeze into, while those new to spelunking will appreciate its large passageways, where you can walk fully upright as you admire the natural cathedrals. If you fancy swimming in an underground steam, you’ll want to bring your bathing suit!
Next, check out 10 unique things to do in Niagara Falls.