Some of nature’s best-kept secrets are hidden away, only accessible to the most intrepid explorers. But you don’t have to be a daring explorer to discover what lies beneath the surface. Explore these top caves in Canada by going underground.
Horne Lake Caves is one of famous caves in Canada
Few people realize that Vancouver Island has the highest concentration of caves in North America. Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park has over 1,600 known caves, and you can visit four. Horne Lake Caves and Outdoor Centre tours offer a variety of challenges, with you deciding whether you want to crawl through the beautiful passageways in search of crystal formations and ancient fossils. Highlights include cable ladders, crossing over underground streams, and optional tiny crawl spaces open all year at a constant temperature of 8°C (46°F).
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Alberta’s Cave and Basin
When three railway workers discovered this cave in 1883, it set in motion a chain of events that would culminate in the establishment of Canada’s first national park. (Of course, Indigenous Peoples had known about this cave with mineral-rich spring waters for thousands of years.) Cave and Basin, located in Banff National Park, is now a designated National Historic Site. Today, visitors can explore the cave filled with turquoise thermal water, and there is a guided lantern tour from May to September. Visitors who used to swim here now swim in the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba – famous caves in Canada
Whiteshell Provincial Park, located near the Ontario border, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The park, which is part of the rugged Precambrian Shield, is home to two notable caves. There are many highlights along the Hunt Lake Trail Cave, including picturesque lake views and refreshing swimming holes. The tiny cave inside a vertical rock wall, on the other hand, is the most popular. It’s a pretty spectacular photo stop, with trees poking their way through the rocks.
The Caddy Lake Tunnels, which are accessible by boat, were created after blasting through granite for the railway. Though technically not caves (due to direct sunlight), these caverns are simply breathtaking and can be easily visited by renting a canoe or kayak from the Green Bay Resort on Lake Caddy.
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Alberta’s Rat’s Nest Cave
Rat’s Nest Cave, about an hour’s drive from Calgary, is only accessible through Canmore Cave Tours. This cave, a designated Provincial Historic Site, transports you through 300 million years of natural history and 3,000 years of human history. Year-round guided tours include catch-and-release fossil hunting, as well as wildlife education and tracking. While exploring underground, you’re bound to come across animal bones and pictographs created by early Indigenous Peoples.
Saskatchewan’s Outlaw Caves
Back when the West was truly wild, rum runners and horse thieves needed a safe haven to avoid the law—ideally close to the border. Natural caves are ideal for hiding, and Big Muddy Badlands, just outside of Coronach, Saskatchewan, was once a favorite haunt of outlaws. Visitors can not only examine the hideout but also learn about the early Indigenous Peoples who lived in the region for thousands of years, as evidenced by the remaining tipi rings, on full and half-day tours available from May to October.
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Ontario’s Scenic Caves
The Scenic Caves in Ontario’s Blue Mountains, carved out of glacial ice and dating back 450 million years, are a network of caverns, caves, and lookout points formerly inhabited by Tionontati Indigenous Peoples, explorer Samuel de Champlain, and even the Jesuits. Visitors on self-guided tours follow a trail dotted with signage explaining how the caves were used for various purposes. The first cave you’ll come across is a natural refrigerator due to the constant flow of cold air, while the cave next to it is known as the ice cave due to deep crevices that can keep snow and ice all year. Exotic vegetation can be found in Fern Cavern. After that, take a walk along southern Ontario’s longest suspension bridge or try out the zip lines for an adrenaline rush.
Ovens Natural Park, Nova Scotia – famous caves in Canada
Ovens Natural Park is located on Nova Scotia’s Southern Shore, not far from Lunenburg. During the summer, visitors can take guided or self-guided tours along the cliffside trails to see the stunning sea caves of varying sizes. Many of these jagged caverns formed naturally, but others were enlarged with dynamite during the 1861 gold rush. On one-hour guided tours, you’ll learn about the park’s coastal environment and dramatic geology, as well as the region’s surprising gold rush history.
Laflèche Cavern, Quebec
Fortunately for families, Arbraska Laflèche Park, about a two-hour drive from Ottawa, contains the largest natural cave in the Canadian Shield. The park is teeming with exhilarating outdoor experiences ranging from treetops to deep underground. And anyone over the age of five is welcome to go on discovery tours underground all year. After clambering up the chimney (caving jargon for a steep, narrow climb) and crouching through low passageways, you’ll be amazed at the frozen stalactites and stalagmites, as well as seeing far too many hibernating bats to count.
St. Martins Sea Caves, New Brunswick
The tides in and out of the Bay of Fundy are the highest on the planet. This powerful tidal action has carved deep fissures and crevasses into the cliffs that hug New Brunswick’s Fundy coastline, resulting in the formation of St. Martins sandstone sea caves. These impressive natural grottos, a haven for rockhounds, birdwatchers, and nature lovers, are best explored at low tide, so consult a tide chart to determine the best time of day to walk the ocean floor.
Newfoundland’s Corner Brook
The Corner Brook Caves are one of the many natural wonders on Newfoundland’s west coast and famous caves in Canada. Cycle Solutions tours allow explorers aged eight and up to explore this subterranean world. There are small passages for the daring, while those new to spelunking will appreciate the large passageways where you can walk fully upright while admiring the natural cathedrals. If you want to swim in an underground steam, bring your bathing suit!