Seven Caves is what they called it way back in 1928. Now it is called Cave Canyon offering fantastic views of caves, cliff tops and valleys. It lies at the heart of Highlands Nature Sanctuary. The stunning preserve is a one great trip for most nature lovers and adventurers. The history and its attractions made the place truly a remarkable nature preserve with over 400 million years in the making.
Early European settlers at Seven Caves were attracted to the cavern-rich region of Rocky Fork Canyon. During 1800’s local families access the gorge to explore caves. It was first named as Highland Caves. Tourist was charged 10 cents as they travel by horseback.
Clyde Chaney from Indiana made some changes in 1928 upon seeing expansive possibilities to the Highland Caves. He persuaded five investors to purchase the caves. Clyde and his family developed it into a first class tourist destination and named it 7 Caves. They improved the trails and caves to preserve its beauty. The entrance price was raised to 25 cents. Robert Judkins was the next owner who continued to promote the caves and passed it on to the Miller family who handled it for 25 years.
The site itself offers sparkling waterfalls, hemlock, morning mist, cold springs and white cedar that have dazzled visitors. It has three hiking trails where you can stroll to chasms, grottos, waterfalls, lime deposits and rock formations. It is also a botanical hotspot of over 300 varieties of rare plants, wildflowers and trees. You can go fishing and bird watching inside the caves.
Wildflowers remain the best attraction in April. The Pyramid of Trilliums is the most impressive floral display tumble out on the valley sides. During spring, the snow trilliums are clinging to the bare gray rocks.
Seven Caves has an Appalachian Forest Museum that features cultural history of Eastern forests. It is situated at Rocky Road Canyon. Hence, various caverns like Devil’s Icebox and Dancing Cave are rich in wildlife and legends. It became the dwelling place of Native Americans.
Seven Caves now called Cave Canyon has been a natural landmark just 70 miles from Cincinnati. It also offers educational activities, self-guided tours on weekends, hiking and aboveground picnic sites. Campgrounds are located at Rocky Fork and Paint Creek State Parks.
It is open to the public from April to October. Visitors can enjoy a one general entrance fee of three trails, Appalachian Nature Book Store, Cliff Deck access, Rocky Fork Gorge overlooking and audiovisual trail orientation about Eastern forest. Cave explorations are not included in the package.
There are three self-guided trails. First is Valley of the Ancients. The place has trail curves of rocks lined down to the Rocky Fork Creek. It views breathtaking panoramas of a 25 mile loop. Second is Etawah Woods Loop Trail. It offers treks along the rim of Rocky Fork Canyon. There are giant hemlocks and a long flight of stairs down into the gorge. And third is the Big Beech Loop Trail. There are massive beech trees and tulip poplars of an intact ecosystem and forest community.
The place also offers eco-theatrical hikes. It is offered during Saturday and Sundays from Memorial to Labor Day on autumn days. Families can explore together with naturalist, William Sullivant as he records the natural history of Cave Canyon. Hikers can walk the dark entrances of the caves and learn about bat populations. Guide hikes takes about an hour for ¼ mile.
There are now current renovations of the site still ongoing to transform it as the world’s first museum to interpret the Eastern America’s temperate forest. The fantastic opportunities of humans interacting with nature made Cave Canyon a must-see site. It has long been admired by visitors because of the perfect time-off nature experience from the commotion of our everyday life.