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A guide to caverns along I-81

Sunday, March 16, 2003

By Elissa Leibowitz, For The Washington Post

The following is a rundown on the caverns lining Interstate 81 near the Virginia-West Virginia border:

Crystal Caverns at Hupp's Hill

DEEP BACKGROUND: The Hupp children used to play in the caves, which the family also used as a refrigerator after it was discovered in the 1750s. Make reservations for $10 lantern tours, in which guides dressed in Civil War costumes lead you through the cave.

COST: $8 adults.

INFORMATION: 1-540-465-5884; www.waysideofva.com/crystalcaverns.

Skyline Caverns

DEEP BACKGROUND: Spiky rock formations that look like white flowers -- called anthodites -- grow here, at a rate of about an inch every 7,000 years. The kid-friendly Skyline Arrow train takes riders on a 10-minute trip.

COST: $12 adults. Coupon on Web site.

INFORMATION: 1-800-296-4545; www.skylinecaverns.com.

Luray Caverns

DEEP BACKGROUND: After visiting the cave, you can tour the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum and traipse through the Garden Maze. Recitals run April-October at the Singing Tower. The cavern's "cathedral" features a giant stalacpipe organ, which has been called the world's biggest musical instrument.

COST: $16 adults.

INFORMATION: 1-540-743-6551; www.luraycaverns.com.

Endless Caverns

DEEP BACKGROUND: The cave was discovered by two boys and a dog who were rabbit hunting in 1879. A woolly mammoth tooth was discovered here six years ago. Water taken from springs on Massanutten Mountain is available for purchase.

COST: $12 adults. Coupon on Web site.

INFORMATION: 1-800-544-2283; www.endlesscavern.com.

Shenandoah Caverns

DEEP BACKGROUND: You can see a part of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: There's a collection of parade floats at the cavern's American Celebration on Parade museum. This cavern has an elevator, which helps if you have small children.

COST: $17.50 adults.

INFORMATION: 1-540-477-3115; www.shenandoahcaverns.com.

Grand Caverns

DEEP BACKGROUND: At 280 feet long and 70 feet high, Cathedral Hall is one of the largest cavern rooms in the East. In the summer, admission includes access to a pool on the property.

COST: $13.50 adults.

INFORMATION: 1-888-430-2283.

Caverns of Natural Bridge

DEEP BACKGROUND: The caverns were opened only in 1977 because their entrance was too steep. Other attractions in this area include a mock Indian village, a wax museum, a zoo, a safari park and Natural Bridge itself.

COST: $7 adults.

INFORMATION: 1-540-291-2121; www.naturalbridgeva.com.

Dixie Caverns

DEEP BACKGROUND: The family-owned caverns include a pottery shop and campgrounds. Every October, a local group turns the caverns into a "haunted cave."

COST: $7.50 adults.

INFO: 1-540-380-2085; www.dixiecaverns.com.

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