Blanchard Springs Caverns is a popular summer attraction that is listed in many guidebooks as one of the most beautiful caves in America. Blanchard Springs Caverns is owned and maintained by the US Forestry Service and been kept as close to natural conditions as possible. Handrails, lights, walkways and other features were added to make the caverns accessible, but only to the extent necessary for visibility and safety. Considerable care was taken to preserve the natural environment.
The cave is a natural formation and, as such, is always changing. It is referred to as a "living cave." No two tours will be the same. Another plus about touring the caverns: the temperature is about 50 degrees. That's a nice break from the Arkansas heat.
Where is Blanchard Springs Cavern?
Blanchard Springs Cavern is located in the very picturesque Ozark National Forests near Mountain View Arkansas. It's on Highway 14 and signs will point you in the right direction.
From Little Rock, take I-40 north to Conway, U.S. 65 north to Clinton, then east on Hwy. 16/9 to Mountain View; continue on Hwy. 9 north to Hwy. 14, then west seven miles to the cavern turnoff.
Touring the Cave
Tours are subject to weather and other conditions so if you think there might be a chance that they are canceled for the day, call ahead to make sure. There are two tours available in the summer months. The cost is about $10 per person.
The Dripstone Trail is the tour for the faint of heart. It's a very leisurely tour and not too stressful if you're out of shape. It is also wheelchair accessible. However, because some inclines are very steep, at least two capable assistants are needed for wheelchair visitors.
It's called "dripstone" because most of the cave formations are made from the minerals in dripping water and this part of the cave has more formations than any other part. The trail passes through two huge stalactite-filled rooms 216 feet below the surface. The Cathedral Room contains a 70-foot column, 55-foot draperies and a natural bridge. This trail definitely has a "wow" aspect so don't feel bad for taking it instead of the more strenuous one. This tour is offered year round and lasts about an hour.
The Discovery Trail is 1.2 miles long and the tour is only offered in the summer. It's a bit more strenuous than the Dripstone Trail. A little climbing (about 700 stair steps total) and lots of walking are involved. It's not recommended for those with walking, heart, or breathing difficulties. It is, however, a wonderful trail.
It's called "discovery" because this trail goes past the cave's natural entrance which is where the original explorers (the discoverers, if you will) entered. You can still some evidence of the original explorations in the cave. This is trail where you'll see the stream, the lower part of the cave and perhaps some bats. The tour normally lasts about two hours.
What You Can Do After the Tour
For the nature lover, Blanchard Springs Caverns has over 30 campsites surrounding it. There are also great hiking trails that pass through some of the most beautiful places in Arkansas. I recommend the Sylamore trail.
If you're not into hiking or camping, picnic tables, playgrounds, and a visitor's information center round out the amenities. Just bring the kids out for a picnic or bring your sweetie to relax.
You can also visit Mountain View where you'll often find folk singers in the streets. The Ozark Mountain Folk Center is just about 15 minutes away from the caverns. There are tons of nice restaurants and shops on Main Street in Mountain View. It's a great place to stop for dinner, lunch or a short shopping trip.
You may want to call before you visit to make sure the tours are open, at 870-757-2211. You can also visit the Forestry Service's Blanchard Springs site for a schedule and information about special tours and events. For example, "Wild Cave Tours," which take visitors to undeveloped areas of the Caverns, are sometimes offered.