Experience Inner Space Cavern’s newest tour
As I walk the long ramp to the underground cave, the cool, humid air hits my face, and I take a sudden breath. While a large tour group follows another guide on the original tour that’s been open to the public since 1966, Dawn Stanco, assistant manager at Inner Space Cavern, guides me on a different path to a brand-new tour, Hidden Passages. She offers a flashlight and ushers me through the entryway. “Will you install lights like the original tour?” I ask, pointing the flashlight at my feet, then back up to see where I’m going. “It’s not the plan,” Dawn says with a laugh. “This tour is a more intimate and quiet look at the cave,” she explains.
Inner Space dug out paths for the Hidden Passages tour so that a person of average height can stand up and walk to see something new and different. “We always knew the rooms were there. Hidden Passages was part of our Wild Cave Tour, which is our spelunking tour. Before we built a path connecting the rooms, you had to climb and crawl through to them,” Taunya Vessels, general manager of Inner Space, explains. The Wild Cave Tour is still offered as well. Five miles of available cave provide plenty of crawling and climbing for the more adventurous types.
“We did some surveying, and this entry is actually under the I-35 access road,” Dawn says as we walk further into the dark tunnel. She points her light to where the floor was formerly shoulder high. I envision the cramped space spelunkers once had to crawl through and am thankful to be walking upright.
Dawn explains that we can’t touch any formations inside the cave: “They grow one cubic inch per one hundred years. If we deposit oils from our hands, it will destroy a thousand-year-old formation.”
Stalagmites, stalactites, flow stones, and soda straws formations sparkle, icicle-like, in the glow of our flashlights. We see white and tan formations with names like Mountain Range, Stair Step Column, Squid, and—my favorite—the Dragon’s Mouth. We come across a rim pool covered in “lily pads” of calcite. I stop walking to hear each drip of water in the darkness. It’s hard to believe such serenity lies just beneath the chaos of Interstate 35.
The new walkways for Hidden Passages took just under three years to excavate for tours. “It was basically a three-man job. These guys used jackhammers and hand tools. Inch by inch, they cracked away rocks,” says Brandie Clark, assistant manager of Inner Space. They also built a bridge over a small canyon and carved out stairs for easier access to several areas.
If you’ve taken the Adventure tour, the Hidden Passages tour will extend your knowledge of the cave. “Hidden Passages is a quiet, intimate look at the cave. You get different information than from the Adventure tour,” Brandie says, “and you get more time to look with your flashlight and see the delicate, untouched areas in the cave that haven’t been generally opened to the public.”
After making a loop back and connecting with the tunnel leading out, Dawn and I turn off our flashlights and make our way up the ramp to the sunlit world. For me, the thrill was in taking the path less traveled and experiencing the cave in its more natural, dark, and untouched state. Each time the beam of my flashlight fell on a beautiful formation, I felt like I’d made a new discovery all by myself.
Details about the Hidden Passages Tour:
- Runs daily at 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00
- Tour is 1½ hours long
- No more than 10 people per tour
- Must wear closed-toed shoes
- Not recommended for children age 6 and under
- Persons with physical limitations are discouraged from this tour. (If you are unable to walk a mile comfortably on an unpaved surface, climb stairs, and walk yourself down the ramp and back up again, this may not be the tour for you. Please ask about our Adventure Tour.)
- Hidden Passages Tour tickets: Adult $24.95; Children $15.95
For information on all available tours at Inner Space Cavern, please visit