The Ultimate Guide To Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls, a spectacular underground waterfall, is a true icon of must-see nature!
Ruby Falls, the deepest and tallest underground waterfall in the US, is accessible only via guided tours traversing the narrow caverns of the Lookout Mountain leading to the miraculous Ruby Falls!
Ruby Falls Cave and Ruby Falls, located deep inside Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, near Tennessee and Georgia state border, is a world of fascinating nature featuring stunning geological formations, a fault line, and one of the most unique and spectacular waterfalls in the world! Ruby Falls is situated about 1,120 feet below the mountain’s surface and approximately 0.5 miles deep inside the mountain from the entrance. The imposing waterfall, plunging nearly 145 feet from the cave’s ceiling into a pool at its bottom, along with light and music effects, is a sight to behold that’s better seen in this short video – The amazing Ruby Falls!
Sculpted and shaped by nature, Ruby Falls Cave in Lookout Mountain was created several million years ago as a result of groundwater dissolving the soft limestone and minerals, creating cracks and narrow passages that lead to the Ruby Falls located at the end of the Ruby Falls Cave cascading down the cave’s roof. Ruby Falls was discovered by Leo Lambert, a cave enthusiast, who through an extraordinary expedition which included passing through narrow dark caves and crawling through tight spaces, first saw the waterfall in 1928 and named it after his wife, Ruby!
Ruby Falls is equipped with a modern and futuristic elevator, making it a breeze to get to the bottom at the entrance of the Ruby Falls Cave, but from there, it’s a one-mile roundtrip hike to Ruby Falls!
Ruby Falls can only be explored via guided tours of the cave, departing multiple times a day from the Ruby Falls Visitor Center. The Park offers various cave tour options and experiences, including the Classic Waterfall Tour, which is the most popular of all cave tours and offered year-round, the seasonal Lantern Tours, and Extended Cave Experience offered year-round but only on select dates. To add to the adventure, Ruby Falls also features a zip line and the Lookout Mountain Tower, an observation tower featuring sweeping views of the neighboring area. Lookout Mountain is also home to a few other great attractions, including Rock City and Incline Railway, located pretty close to Ruby Falls and are a great addition to your Ruby Falls itinerary!
Here is my ultimate guide to Ruby Falls, featuring essential trip-planning information, various cave tour options, activities, nearby attractions, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Ruby Falls!
Planning Your Trip To Ruby Falls
Flying into and staying in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and visiting a couple of other Lookout Mountain attractions, is the best way to get the most out of your trip to Ruby Falls!
Best Time To Visit Ruby Falls: Ruby Falls is open throughout the year except on 25th December on Christmas, and with a constant temperature of 60° F inside the cave, it’s a year-round destination! However, spring and fall are the peak seasons at Ruby Falls and Chattanooga, when temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities and fall brings colorful foliage. Summers are pretty hot in Tennessee, but given the constant temperature of 60° F inside the cave, heat shouldn’t be a huge problem if you’re planning to visit just the cave and waterfalls. Winters are cold with some snowfall in Chattanooga, but if you don’t mind cooler temperatures and use layered clothing, visiting in winter is a great way to beat the crowds at Ruby Falls.
Time Required At Ruby Falls: Given you book your tour tickets online in advance and arrive before your tour departure time or there’s no wait time when you go to purchase tickets in person, exploring Ruby Falls will not take more than half a day. However, being a popular tourist destination, there may be long wait times if you don’t have an advance reservation, especially during holidays and weekends. Also, you would need additional time if you choose to do the Extended Cave Experience or enjoy the zip line at Ruby Falls.
Getting To Ruby Falls: The best way to get to Ruby Falls is by directly flying into Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, but a lot of people also fly into Atlanta or Nashville International Airports and then drive to Ruby Falls. Alternatively, you could also take an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus to the closest city and then drive to Ruby Falls.
- Flight: The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA), Chattanooga, Tennessee, just 15 miles from Ruby Falls, is the closest major domestic airport to Ruby Falls. However, you could also fly into a couple of international airports near Ruby Falls – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Atlanta, Georgia, about 127 miles from Ruby Falls and Nashville International Airport (BNA), Nashville, Tennessee, approximately 130 miles from Ruby Falls.
- Train: The Atlanta Peachtree Station, an Amtrak train station located in downtown Atlanta about 116 miles from Ruby Falls, is serviced by several Amtrak train services and is the closest Amtrak Station to Ruby Falls.
- Bus: Greyhound offers bus services to Georgia and Tennessee, with two Greyhound bus stops – Chattanooga in Tennessee and Trenton in Georgia, located within 15 miles from Ruby Falls.
Tickets & Parking At Ruby Falls: Ruby Falls offers various tour options, including Classic Waterfall Tour, Lantern Tour, and Specialty Extended Cavern Tour, and offers timed tickets, which allows you to select your preferred tour time so that you can skip the line and arrive just before your tour begins. You also have an option to buy combo tickets that includes admission to Rock City and Incline Railway, two other popular attractions of Lookout Mountain. I highly recommend booking your Cave Tour tickets online on the Ruby Falls Website and reserving your tour slot in advance. Ruby Falls offers complimentary parking for visitors, including car, bus, and RV parking, and also provides locker rentals and dog kennels.
Lodging Options Near Ruby Falls: While the lodging options right next to Ruby Falls in Lookout Mountain are limited to a couple of Bread and Breakfasts, you will find plenty of excellent hotels in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here’re my top picks for hotels near Ruby Falls
Dining Options In Ruby Falls: There are three dining choices at Ruby Falls – (1) Cavern Cafe, located inside the Ruby Falls Castle, serving sandwiches, snacks, and beverages, (2) Back Porch, located in Village Plaza offering outdoor dining, and (3) Ruby’s Kitchen, a small grab and go option in the Village Gift Shop.
Other Attractions Near Ruby Falls: Ruby Falls is located pretty close to many popular attractions in Tennessee, especially the attractions in and around Lookout Mountain, including Rock City and Incline Railway, which I highly recommend visiting on a trip to Rock City.
Things To Do In Ruby Falls
Undeniably, the Ruby Falls Cave Tour is the main attraction at Ruby Falls, but there’re a few other things you could enjoy at Ruby Falls and in the nearby area of Lookout Mountain!
Ruby Falls Cave Tours: The only way to get to Ruby Falls is via one of three ranger-led guided tours offered at Ruby Falls – Classic Waterfall Tour, Lantern Tour, and Extended Cavern Experience. The Ruby Falls tour begins at the entrance of the cave, located about 1,120 feet below the ground, accessible via a state-of-the-art elevator. The walk to the waterfall is pretty easy but involves passing through narrow and uneven terrain, and unfortunately, it’s not stroller or wheelchair-friendly.
- Classic Waterfall Tour: The most popular tour of Ruby Falls, the Classic Waterfall Tour is a well narrated guided tour of the cavern, which takes around 1 hour 15 minutes, featuring stunning rock formations, views of the fault line that passes through the cave, and of course the majestic Ruby Falls at the end of the trail. Throughout the hike, you will see some impressive live geological formations, including the Elephant’s Foot, Dragon’s Foot, Angle’s Wing – a drapery / curtain formation, and Frozen Niagara. At the end of the trail, you will see the Ruby Falls and get to enjoy a spectacular light show that illuminates the entire waterfall, adding to the charisma of the miraculous Ruby Falls.
- Lantern Tour: This is a specialty guided tour offered seasonally every Friday night, where you venture into the dark cave using handheld lanterns as the only source of light. This is a slow-paced tour provided for small groups and must be reserved in advance.
- Extended Cavern Experience: This is the most extensive cave tour offered at Ruby Falls. The Extended Cavern Experience is led by senior tour guides sharing in-depth information about the history and geology of the Cave and Waterfall and gives you a lot more time at the waterfall. The Extended Cavern Experiences are offered year-round but only on select dates and must be booked in advance.
Lookout Mountain Tower: The Lookout Mountain Tower at Ruby Falls is a 70 feet tall observation tower constructed using the limestone excavated while installing the elevator at Ruby Falls. You can either take the stairs or use the elevator to go to the upper level of the Lookout Mountain Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the nearby area. There’s also an observation room in the upper level fitted with large windows, comfortable seating facing the windows, a restroom, and a small cafeteria, which serves as a great waiting room if there’s a long wait time before your Cave Tour.
High Point ZIP Adventure: Open seasonally, the High Point ZIP Adventure offers several thrilling zipline courses across the forested land atop the Lookout Mountain. The High Point ZIP Adventure is not included with Ruby Falls Cave Tours and requires additional tickets that can be purchased online or in person from the ticket counter at Ruby Falls.
Ruby Falls Special Events: Ruby Falls hosts various events and activities throughout the year, each offering a different appeal and a fun way to enjoy the fabulous nature at Ruby Fall. Here’re the most popular annual events at Ruby Falls –
- Romance At Ruby: Offered in February to celebrate valentines day, and includes a Lantern Tour, a photo, and a gift.
- Ruby Falls Discovery Day: Celebrated on December 30th, features discounted tour tickets for the first few visitors to celebrate the discovery of Ruby Falls.
- Ruby Falls Christmas Underground: Come December, Ruby Falls offers “A Journey to the North Pole,” featuring an ice cave, costumed characters, and the Sugar Plum Fairy Village.
Other Tennessee Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Ruby Falls, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Ruby Falls. You can find other attractions in Tennessee in my Tennessee Travel Guide.
Happy feeding your soul!
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