There are more caves in Tennessee than anywhere in the United States. Most are located on private property. Ruby Falls Tennessee however is open to the public and a perfect introduction to the underground past time of spelunking or caving. Plus, the falls at the end of the walk is breathtaking.
Ruby Falls: Chattanooga TN Natural Wonder
Ruby Falls is located in the Lookout Mountain, TN area in the northwest corner of the state, just across the Georgia line. It’s part of group of Chattanoooga attractions that are often grouped together and include Ruby Falls, the Incline Railway and Rock City TN.
It’s proximity to Atlanta is one of the best things about Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga TN attractions are very close too. It’s easy to visit Ruby Falls/Chattanooga attractions for the day, or spend the night so you have more time.
Ruby Falls Hours and Tickets
Ruby Falls hours are daily from 8 am – 8 pm (EST) except for Christmas Day when they are closed. Seasonally you can enjoy the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern or the Ruby Falls zip line.
Ruby Falls tickets can be purchased online or in-person. The best deal is to combine Ruby Falls with Rock City tickets or the triple play, which also includes the Incline Railway. I have not experienced the Ruby Falls zip line, but it sounds pretty cool. If you do that, it’s a steal to just add on a Ruby Falls tour.
If you plan to experience more than one of these attractions in a day, be sure to check the Incline and Rock City hours of operation. Three attractions is a lot, especially with young kids, and you may want to extend your Lookout Mountain vacation to a couple of days to get it all in
If you are traveling by GPS, Ruby Falls address is 1720 South Scenic Hwy., Chattanooga, TN. The Ruby Falls phone numer is 423.821.2544.
What to Expect at the Ruby Falls, Chattanooga TN Cave Tour
To enter the cave with the Ruby Falls waterfall, take an elevator 260 feet down into the earth. Watch the solid rock wall slip away through the glass doors on the elevator as it takes you underground. The Ruby Falls walking tour is an easy stroll; nothing like the tour Leo Lambert, the person who founded Ruby Falls took when he first explored the cave. Lambert’s first exploration included crawling through tiny crevices for 17 hours. You’ll see the same unusual rock formations Mr. Lambert saw but it will take only 1.25 hours and you can stand the whole time.
History of Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain Cave
Ruby Falls history began with the original Lookout Mountain Cave, a natural wonder along the Tennessee River. In 1905, the cave entrance was sealed off due to the construction of a railroad tunnel. Enter Mr. Lambert. He had explored the cave before it was sealed, and wanted to open it back up to the public by drilling an elevator shaft through the mountain. While exploring, they found the amazing waterfall, which he named for his wife Ruby.
A Little Ruby Falls Cave Humor
All tours of Ruby Fall are guided. Due to the narrow cave passages, it is not stroller or wheelchair accessible. You can put small children in a carrier, but be careful if they sit above your head, there are some low ceilings in the cave. The tour itself uses Disney Jungle Cruise comedy to showcase the natural wonders of this Tennessee cave. In fact, our guide, Susan, works nights as a comedian at a local club. I love puns, so here’s a little cave humor…
- Only Narrow minded people can get through here.
• See Myrtle the turtle. She’s quite scared down here, in fact, she’s petrified.
The Ruby Falls Waterfall
The tour takes you to the Ruby Falls waterfall and back. When you reach the falls, the lights are dark and it’s impossible to see anything. If anyone in your group is afraid of the dark, this could freak them out a bit, but it’s only momentary, so try to power through it.
The dark is worth it. The moment of illumination is dramatic and spectacular. Guests are allowed behind the falls once it is lit. Be sure to look up, it looks like an avalanche of crystals falling from the ceiling. The return trip is faster. Guides point out new rock formations, but it’s also a second chance to see the ones you may have missed on the way in, as there is only one path.
Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern
The Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is a seasonal attraction that was named one of the Top 10 haunted houses by Rand McNally. It’s only available in October. Visit the website for possible discounts on haunted cavern tickets.
Ruby Falls Zipline: ZIPstream Aerial Adventure
We did not experience the zip line on our Ruby Falls adventure, however, here are a few things you might want to know if you are planning to zip.
The Ruby zip is a semi-guided experience where you have two hours from the time of arrival to explore the course options you’ve purchased.
There is a standard course where participants must be at least 60 lbs. and able to reach a height of 70”.
There is also a kids ticket for younger adventurers. As I mentioned before, if you do this, plan to purchase the Ruby Falls Cavern Tour as an add-on for maximum savings.
Tips for a Great Ruby Falls TN Experience
At least try. Make sure everyone in your group goes to the bathroom before you enter the elevator. There are no bathrooms underground.
Bring a sweater. Caves keep a constant temperature, no matter what it’s like outside. The temperature in the Ruby Falls cave is around 60 degrees year round.
Pace yourself. There are packages to See Rock City, Ruby Falls and the Incline Railway all in one day. All great attractions, but this is a lot for kids (and adults) to do in one day.
Take Your Time. I suggest splitting your visit to the Chattanooga it into two. If you must do it all in one, plan a lighter schedule the next day.
Don’t Bring a Stroller. The pathways in the cave are tight and there is only one way in and one way out, which means groups have to step aside to let the next group through. There is no room on this tour for a stroller.
Pack the Young Ones in Front. If you are wearing a small child, wear them in the front. There are some low ceilings throughout the tour. You don’t want to duck your head, just to hit the baby square on the noggin.
Spend the night. Not in the cave, but in Chattanooga. A great place to stay nearby Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga is the Chattanoogan Hotel. If you have young children, they may enjoy the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
Where to Eat Near Ruby Falls
For food, we went into Chattanooga, TN, which is a short 10-minute drive. There are so many great restaurants in Chattanooga that it would be impossible to list them all. If you have a favorite, let me know. Here area few of our finds.
Terminus Brewhouse: My favorite place was Terminus Brewhouse, a brewpub on the edge of town located in an old building. The rooftop seating has a great view of the city.
Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken: Another place the 365 Atlanta Family has enjoyed is Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken for an inexpensive family-friendly meal.
Lupi’s Pizza: One of our writers recommends Lupi’s. We also found great reviews for Mr. T’s Pizza which is less than a mile from Ruby Falls.
Cupcake Kitchen: If you aren’t interested in a meal, maybe try Cupcake Kitchen. It’s located on Broad Street in Chattanooga, about three miles from Ruby Falls.
The Hot Chocolatier: Who doesn’t like chocolate? Well if you don’t, then maybe you want to check out their candy assortment.
The Chattanoogan: My boys are still talking about the great breakfast buffet at the Chattanoogan. Lots of variety and a great way to fuel up for a day of Chattanooga attractions
Want More of the Chattanooga Caves
If you loved Ruby Falls and would like to do some cave exploration more like Mr. Lambert, take a wild cave tour of nearby Sitton’s Cave in Cloudland Canyon – which is actually in Georgia, not Chattanooga, TN. The Georgia Girl Guides offer fantastic and affordable tours. In fact, the Georgia Girl Guides tours are one of my favorite field trips ever.
More Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga Attractions
For more information on the Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga attractions, Rock City Tennessee and more, take a look at our other posts –