Gold Country California Visitor Information

California Cavern, Mountain Ranch

Known by Native Americans for an indeterminate amount of time, there is some controversy about when exactly California Cavern was discovered by westerners. Some evidence points to 1849, and some to 1850.

However, we do know that the discovery is attributed to Captain Joseph Taylor who was target practicing on a rocky outcropping. Noticing that his targets were being moved by a breeze which seemed to emanate from the rocks, he investigated this curious phenomenon and discovered the entrance to the cave.

We also know that California Cavern was the very first cave in the state to be opened to the public for guided tours in 1850. In the early days, the cave was known as “Mammoth Cave.” The original tours, though impressive, were shorter than they are today, since more of the cave system has been discovered over the years.

Early visitors included Bret Harte, Mark Twain and John Muir who wrote about his visit in his 1894 book “The Mountains of California.” For 150 years, visitors have enjoyed the unique delicate beauty of the cavern’s crystalline formations. Some speleothems, such as the beaded helictites found in the Middle Earth area are very rare. Others are so numerous as to be spectacular, such as the “Jungle Room’s” array of stalactites. Besides 2 fun walking tours, we also offer the wonderful opportunity to participate in underground adventures – our professionally guided wild cavern spelunking trips – the Mammoth Cave Expedition and Middle Earth Expedition.

Visit their website for more information on the tours available.

From Stockton, California
Take Highway 4 east to Angels Camp, then Highway 49 north to San Andreas. Take a right turn on Mountain Ranch Road and go approximately 15 minutes (9 miles). Turn right on the 2nd Michel Road turnoff at the California Historical Landmark sign that says “California Caverns.” Follow the signs for approximately 2 miles to our driveway on the left. 9565 Cave City Road, Mountain Ranch, CA 95246

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