Ebbetts Pass Caves

Mercer Caverns, Moaning Cavern, California Cavern

Ebbetts Pass Caves

Deposits of limestone rock run through the hills west of Ebbetts Pass. Over the eons of time water seeping through the rock has gradually eaten away the limestone, creating caves. Among the best known in the foothills west of Ebbetts Pass are Mercer Caverns, Moaning Cavern, and California Cavern.

Mercer Caverns

Originally used by Yokut Indians as a mortuary cave, Mercer Caverns were later abandoned and the entrance covered over with debris until its rediscover by pioneers in 1885. It has been a tourist attraction ever since.

Mercer Caverns sign, Murphys, CA

Crystalline formations such as the Angel Wings and delicate formations of aragonite, along with stalactites, stalagmites, and a labyrinth of subterranean rooms have been drawing visitors for over a century. Tours of the cavern pass through the Fairies Grotto, Gothic Chamber, and the Oregon Loft.

Location: One mile north of Murphys on Sheep Ranch Road.
Tours: of the caverns are held daily in summer from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Winter hours are from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
Mercer Caverns website: Mercer Caverns
Prices: Adults $17, children (3-12) $9.50


Moaning Cavern

Moaning Cavern is best known for its main chamber, a capacious vertical room large enough to contain the Statue of Liberty. Located off Parrotts Ferry Road, south of Murphys, the cave offers walking tours, rappels, and 3-hour Adventure Trips.

Location: Parrotts Ferry Road, 6 miles south of Murphys.
Hours: Open daily, year-round
Moaning Cavern

Moaning Cavern Tours

Cavern Walk Tour: 45-minute guided tour through marble passages, including a 234-stair descent into the main chamber. Suitable for children and adults. $17.50 for adults, $9.50 for children ages 3 to 12.
165-foot Rope Rappel: Rappel 165 feet into the main chamber. 45 minutes spent in cave. No experience necessary. Ages 12 and up. Children must have signed waiver - see website for details. $72
Adventure Trip: A guided 3-hour exploration of the cave in areas without walkways or lights. Adventurers wear lighted helmets, gloves, and hard hats to crawl and climb through the passages. Ages 12 and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Other Features at Moaning Caverns

Custom Climbing Tower: 32-foot high climbing tower - $5
Zip Lines: Regular zip ride $45


California Cavern

California Cavern is 11 miles east of San Andreas off Mountain Ranch Road. The caves can be reached from Murphys by going north on Sheep Ranch Road and circling through Mountain Ranch, a slow 17-mile drive.

Visitors to the cave enjoy its beautiful crystalline formations and vast labyrinth of rooms. California Cavern offer several different ways to tour the cave.

Location: 9565 Cave City Road, Mountain Ranch.
Hours: Open daily, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
California Cavern

California Cavern Tours

The Trail of Lights Walk Tour: 60 to 80 minutes, guided tour through nearly level, well-lighted passages. visit the Jungle Room and learn about the history of the cave. Offered during the dry season only. $17.50 for adults, $9.50 for children ages 3 to 12.
Mammoth Cave Expedition: 2-3 hours. Get a sample of real spelunking by crawling through natural passages connecting 13 chambers. Ages 8 years and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $99
The Middle Earth Expedition: 2½ - 4 hours. Explore 80% of the cave from the historic Mammoth Cave area into newly discovered Middle Earth. Venture into the Cave of the Quills and raft across Tom's Lake. Ages 16 years and up. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $130