With over 8,350 caves, Tennessee has more caves than any other state in America. The Forbidden Caverns are an ideal attraction for travelers any time of the year since they remain at a cool 58 degrees year round. The site is around a 35-minute drive from Gatlinburg (45 minutes if you’re traveling from Knoxville), and the drive should be enjoyable in itself as you cruise by picturesque views of Mount LeConte and English Mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Forbidden Caverns first use was as a shelter for the Eastern Woodland Indians while hunting and during bad weather and harsh winters. There is a constant stream rolling through the caverns serving fresh water. It is believed that the water comes from an underground body of water located under English Mountain. There is also a limited amount of flint and chert, which were used to make arrowheads, knives and many other handy tools by the Indians. The story has it that an Indian princess was lost in a “hollow mountain of two streams”, which was considered forbidden land (thus the forbidden caverns).
Moonshiners inhabited the cave from the early 1920s until 1943. The isolation and never-ending supply of water made the location an ideal brewing station. In 1964, the initial planning began towards opening the caverns to the public. It took three years of excavating and developing the area, but the Forbidden Caverns were officially opened to the public in the summer of 1967. Visitors are able to see the plethora of unique stalactites and calcite formations that have been there for centuries.
The cavers have been enhanced with lights and hand rails for the areas that are hard to maneuver around. The guided tours usually last just shy of 55 minutes, and there is a souvenir shop and refreshment stand to indulge in after the tour. You can get more information on their website as well as by phone at (865) 453-5972.