Go Below the Surface at Longhorn Cavern State Park

Longhorn Cavern State Park is a unique flow cave in the Hill Country. Its distinctly smooth walls and level path are characteristic of the way it was formed by rushing water. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Tour 135 feet deep into the earth at Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet County. The limestone cave is filled with minerals, including smooth dolomite and glittering calcite crystals. Lighting throughout the tour illuminates colorful striations and dripping stalactites.

With the interior at 68 degrees year-round, it’s a great refuge from the summer heat.

“You’ll notice when you get down there that it doesn’t look like those other caves,” said park manager Evan Archilla, comparing Longhorn Cavern to others such as Natural Bridge Caverns northeast of San Antonio, Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Caverns of Sonora, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

Begin your initial descent into Longhorn Cavern through a natural sinkhole at the cave’s entrance. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

“What’s unique about our cave, in particular, is that it’s a flow cave formed by a river,” Archilla said. “Carlsbad Caverns, for example, are called solution caves, or drip caves, meaning that the water sank through the earth and dissolved out big caves and formations. Longhorn Cavern is much more sculpted, and it’s a very long, fairly level cave”

The cultural significance is almost as exciting as its natural significance.

Fun facts about Longhorn Cavern State Park:

  • Throughout Prohibition in the 1920s, the cavern was a subterranean speakeasy. For just $1.10, guests could enjoy the Queen’s Throne room, which was a section of the cavern with a bootleg whisky bar, a dance floor, and a bandstand.
  • During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps, in which men ages 17-26 cleared out the cavern with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows for visitation.
  • Confederate soldiers used the endless supply of guano from the cavern’s Mexican free-tailed bats to create gunpowder.
  • Comanche tribes used the cavern to host meetings and also to trap horses.
  • During the Cold War and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, the cavern was to be used as a bunker. In the event of a national emergency, Johnson would have been brought down and set up with a radio table and enough food to last at least three years.
  • Legend has it that infamous Texas outlaw Sam Bass hid $2 million inside the cave. The money has yet to be discovered.

Take a walking tour of Longhorn Cavern. Tours are led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, who explain the history and unique geology along the way.

Glittering calcite crystals line the walls at Longhorn Cavern State Park. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Tips for visitors taking the walking tour:

  • Wear comfortable, close-toed, rubber-soled shoes.
  • There is no online reservation system, and tours are first-come, first-served. Show up an hour in advance.
  • There are no facilities inside the cavern so be sure to use the restroom or fill up a water bottle before going down under.
  • While the cavern is accessible by strollers, staff recommends pneumatic strollers with rugged wheels.
  • The tour is mildly strenuous: There are 52 steps in and out of the cave as well as a 50-yard, low-ceiling stretch that you have to crouch though.

Looking for adventure? The Wild Cave Tour explores the basement system of Longhorn Cavern. You’ll have to crawl on your hands and knees wearing elbow and knee pads, helmets, and head lamps. Wild Cave Tours are by reservation only. The park also offers special photography, paranormal, and geology tours.

Longhorn Cavern is home to many animals such as the tiny tricolor bats, also known as the Eastern pipistrelle bat. Other animals that make their homes inside the cavern are blind salamanders, blind catfish, blind shrimp, field mice, and cave crickets. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Longhorn Cavern State Park also has other features: nature trails, historic structures, great picnic areas, a snack bar, overlooks, and more.

There is no park entry fee. Fees for tours vary depending on the tour type. Gratuities are not included in your ticket price, but the tour guides work hard to give you a fun experience so don’t forget to tip to show your appreciation.

Longhorn Cavern State Park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk. Monday-Friday with tours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. every hour and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. The park is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Longhorn Cavern State Park is located at 6211 Park Road 4 South in Burnet. For more information, call (512) 715-9000, email info@visitlonghorncavern.com, or visit visitlonghorncavern.com.

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