Lewis and Clark Caverns With Kids. Must See in Montana

Lewis and Clark Caverns With Kids: what to expect and be ready for. 325 million years old limestone caverns in the middle of good old Wild West

“Lewis and Clark Caverns With Kids” is about what to expect and be ready for. Explored with grandparents, baby, toddler, and 10 y/o on the way to Yellowstone.

The limestone caverns are fragile pieces of art. They are known as Montana’s first and best-known state park and for a good reason. The caves feature all three major geologic formation groups: waterfalls and ribbons; stalactites, stalagmites, columns; and “popcorn”.

Besides those, we saw a couple of pools and were able to slide to the lower level:

Limestone caverns were formed by calcium-rich organisms that died in the sea approximately 325 million years ago. Settled in beautiful surroundings, they are very worth visiting. Caverns on the map:

Any traces of Lewis and Clark?

The caverns named after Lewis and Clark but weren’t discovered by them. Lewis and Clark Caverns have all you can imagine, but not a single trace of the Lewis and Clark’s expedition. The expedition camped nearby, but the caverns were discovered and explored almost 100 years later.

Lewis and Clark Caverns With Kids. Plan the Visit

Before entering the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park (if you aren’t a Montana resident), you have to pay the entrance fee. Admission cost is $10-$15 per person, 5 and under – free. Part of the tour is wheelchair accessible. Check the rules, hours, and prices at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.

At the parking lot: picnic tables, gift shop, ticket booth, restrooms, cafe.
At the parking lot: picnic tables, gift shop, ticket booth, restrooms, cafe.

Choosing the tour

You can enter the caverns only with a tour. During our visit, three tours were available: easy (wheelchair accessible), moderate (most popular), and challenging:

We chose the “classic”, the most popular one. The kids were well rested and everybody in a good health.

Lewis and Clark Caverns With Kids: on the trail

The tour wasn’t challenging, what I can’t say about the walk up the hill trail (to reach the caverns from the parking lot). It was a very hot day, and we all were dressed warmly for the underground experience.

Climbing up the hill, almost there:

Once you reach the entrance to caverns, there are some benches to rest and listen to the guide. The scenery is breathtaking! Caverns located at an elevation of 5,300 feet – approximately 1600 meters. Jefferson River runs in the background:

Inside the cave

The caves feature all three major formation groups: Flowstone (waterfalls and ribbons), Dripstone (stalactites, stalagmites, columns), and Shepstone (popcorn):

Some of the formations were chipped off:

Some of the most favorite places were: the pool (at the beginning of the post) and the slide! The slide wasn’t long, but it certainly was fun! Both, kids and our parents tried it and liked it:

Tunnel at the end of the tour:

Lewis and Clark Caverns With Kids. Rules and important nuances

Caverns are a delicate ecosystem. There are some rules and important nuances about visiting them:

  • Tour is a 2-mile hike, 2 hours long. Restrooms are only available across the parking lot.
  • Cavern temperature averages 48 degrees F.
  • Elevation gain is 300 feet, ascend over 100 steps, and descend over 500 steps in the caves. Steps could be wet and slippery. You’ll be required to duck-waddle and bend numerous times.
  • Sturdy, non-slip shoes are necessary.
  • Several spots along the tour trail provide no handrails.
  • Do not carry any unnecessary items with you, both hands remain free to keep your balance. The only items allowed are water, camera, and baby front pack (you can borrow it at the ticket booth). Bulky items are not allowed: purse, camera bag, tripod, baby backpack.
  • Caves are a delicate ecosystem. Touching, flash pictures, loud noises are not allowed. As well as gum, food, flavored drinks.
  • No pets allowed in the caves.

Cave residents: Townsend’s big-eared bats

Before buying the tickets and once again at the beginning of the tour we were asked if we visited any caves or mines in the past two years. The reason – White-nose syndrome – a fungal disease, originated in Eastern North America and already found in the West. It is not harmful to people but lethal to bats.

There used to be hundreds of Townsend’s big-eared bats in the caves, but now only about 50 to 150 are left. Mostly females, who roost the caverns to have their pups.

Townsend’s big-eared bat. photo credit: J. N. Stuart

Thanks for reading, we are glad you stopped by!

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By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

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