7 Secret Caves We'd Love to See Inside

By: Stephanie Parker  | 

chinkanas
The "chinkanas" are a system of underground caves on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru. The smallest of the caves, named chinkana chica, is accessible to the public. Andean Peruvean Treks

While many people adventure to the tops of mountains to see impressive landscapes and panoramic vistas, there is a lot to be found underground as well. There are secret and hidden caves — big and small — explored and unexplored all around the world.

Here, we've found seven secret caves we think are worth knowing about. And while you can explore some of them, a few are super technical and others are far off the trailhead. But if you're up for it, the results will be worth your efforts.

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1. Chinkanas, Cusco, Peru

The Chinkanas aren't one cave but rather a series of underground passages and galleries. The name of these Incan caves comes from the Quechua word chinkana, which means "place where one is lost." They're located in Cusco, close to the Sacsayhuaman historical site. Nobody's sure whether these underground labyrinths were made by the Incas or a civilization that came before them. The smallest of the chinkanas, called chinkana chica, is accessible to the public and is located just shy of a mile (150 meters) from the taxiway in Cusco. However, many areas are closed to the public as people could get lost inside.

2. Hidden Cave at Grimes Point, Nevada

This aptly named hidden cave near Fallon, Nevada, formed about 21,000 years ago by the waves of rising Pleistocene Lake Lahontan. Native Americans used it to store tools, spears and fishing gear. The cave was discovered by four kids out looking for treasure in 1927. When they found the cave, they were the first humans in the 20th century to see it. Today, Hidden Cave is part of the Grimes Point Archaeological Area and the Bureau of Land Management offers free public tours.

Hidden Cave in Nevada
Hidden Cave in Nevada is an archaeological site that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The cave was formed around 21,000 years ago.
Dominic Gentilcore, Ph.D./Shutterstock

3. Ice Caves, North Dakota

North Dakota does not have a lot of caves, but the Ice Caves can be found in the northwest part of the state, on the Maah Daah Hey Trail, between mile markers 108 and 109. From there, it's a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) hike to the Ice Cave cliffs, and beneath them are the Ice Caves. These caves get their name from their cool interior temperatures; people have reported seeing ice and snow from the previous winter in the caves well into July. The caves' thick sandstone and restricted air flow provide insulation that helps keep ice from melting even after it's melted everywhere else.

Ice Caves North Dakota
The Ice Caves in North Dakota are located just off the Maah Daah Hey trail system in the Sentinel Butte Formation.
Maah Daah Hey Association

4. The Ramble Cave, New York

Secret caves aren't always in remote or hard-to-reach places. In fact, there's one right in the middle of America's biggest city — in New York's Central Park. While it wasn't initially part of designer Frederick Olmsted's plan for the park, it was discovered during excavation. The cave was a popular attraction for children in its early days but also an area for trouble. For example, in 1904 a man was found shot in the chest near the steps of the cave and men were arrested at the Ramble Cave, among other parts of the park, for harassing women. It's not possible to go inside today; it was sealed up sometime in the 1930s. But the steps are still there on the northwest of the lake.

Ramble Cave
Ramble Cave in Central Park was discovered by workers in the 1850s. Unfortunately, it was sealed up in 1934 because it became a site for crime.
New York Public Library

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5. The Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacán, Mexico

This cave in Mexico is another one you can't actually visit. In fact, no one has actually seen it in person. It was discovered in 2018 by archaeologists who confirmed the existence of a hidden tunnel leading to a chamber 26 feet (7.9 meters) deep beneath the Pyramid of the Moon temple located in the ancient city of Teotihuacán. They found both using a technique called electrical resistivity tomography (ERT). Using ERT allowed the researchers to map the Earth below the pyramid without doing any digging. The archaeologists believe the cave was formed naturally and that it could offer clues about the design of the city of Teotihuacán.

Pyramid of the Moon
In 2018, researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History discovered a chamber located under the Pyramid of the Moon structure. It's never been explored.
DeAgostini/Getty Images

6. Tears of the Turtle, Montana

This cave is located in the heart of Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness, a vast area of more than 1 million acres (404,685 hectares) with no roads. That means to reach this cave, you have to hike or ride a horse 21 miles (33.7 kilometers) into the wilderness area from the Meadow Creek trailhead. The cave is one of a few at Turtlehead Mountain, and it's definitely not for amateur spelunkers. It has a depth of 1,629 feet (496.5 meters) and stretches for more than a mile.

Tears of the Turtle Cave
Tears of the Turtle Cave is located in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in western Montana.
Wikimedia/(CC BY-SA 4.0)

7. Wildenmannlisloch, Alt Sankt Johan, Switzerland

The name of this cave translates to "wild man's hole" in English and it's an alpine limestone karst cave in the canton of St. Gallen Switzerland. As the name suggests, it's a small cave and was used by ancient man for thousands of years. In 1844, a feral child named Johannes Seluner was found living in the cave, and in 1906, researchers found bear bones and teeth in the cave, as well. Stone tools made of a green quartzite not local to the area have also been found in Wildenmannlisloch, suggesting ancient man must have brought it from far away. To reach the cave, you can ride the Holzkistenbahn cable car from Starkenbach to Strichbodenit and then it's a about a 15 minute hike to the cave. Or you can make the entire 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) hike on foot.

Wildenmannlisloch
Wildenmannlisloch, which means "wild man's cave," is an alpine limestone karst cave on the northern slope of the Churfirsten range in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Wikimedia/(CC BY-SA 4.0)

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