Ruby Falls: A Guide to Exploring Chattanooga’s Hidden Gem

Get ready for a jaw-dropping journey beneath Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Ruby Falls is an underground spectacle that has dazzled folks for more than nine decades. If you’re planning a trip to Chattanooga or nearby, you can’t miss this! Let’s dive into our experience, share some insider tips, and even tackle a little controversy.

Ruby falls tower
The Ruby Falls tower is made from the limestone dynamited from the cavern.

The Amazing Discovery: How Ruby Falls Got Its Name

Way back in 1928, a guy named Leo Lambert heard about a cave system that was sealed off to make way for the new railroad. He thought it would make a good attraction, so got some investors and began digging. After many months they broke into the cave system and ventured inside. As they went deeper, they found something amazing—a 145-foot waterfall inside the cave! Leo thought, “This is so awesome, I gotta name it after someone special.” So he named it Ruby Falls after his wife, Ruby.

Stalactite curtains
The stalactite curtains in the cave are a real show-stealer, looking like nature’s own chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Their intricate formations add a layer of enchantment to the whole Ruby Falls experience.

Step into the Past: Ruby Falls Opens to the Public

Just two years later, in 1930, Leo made his dream a reality. He opened Ruby Falls to everyone, and people from all over the planet have been coming ever since. Today, the whole cave system is more than 1,100 feet long, full of cool rocks, underground rivers, and of course, the superstar Ruby Falls.

Leo’s passage
Back in 1928, Leo Lambert and his pals didn’t have it easy—they had to crawl through the original narrow passage to discover Ruby Falls. Their adventurous spirit really comes to life when you imagine them squeezing through tight spaces, unaware they were about to stumble upon one of nature’s masterpieces.

What to Expect: The Guided Tour

The tour lasts about an hour and it’s super easy to walk. But watch your head! If you’re taller than 5′ 6″, you’ll need to duck a lot in the beginning, but the cave system opens up. They’ve got signs all over the place telling you about history and pointing out cool rocks hanging from the ceiling and shooting up from the ground.

Light Up Your Life: The Magic of Cave Lighting

They do an epic job making the cave look even cooler with a special lights. It makes everything look like something from a fairy tale.

Curtain stalactites
Ruby’s Curtain is another breathtaking feature of the cave, showcasing delicate, curtain-like stalactites that are both captivating and artistic. Named after Ruby Lambert, Leo’s wife, this formation adds a special, romantic touch to the Ruby Falls tour.

The Grand Finale: Witness the Waterfall

The best part? Walking into a huge room and seeing the waterfall! It’s like a rock concert with lights and music, making it a super-memorable moment, but also prevents the tour from overstaying their visit. They keep tours small, so you don’t feel like you’re in a crowd.

ruby falls animated gif
At 135 feet, Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest waterfall open to the public in the United States!

The Chatter: What People Are Buzzing About

While we were totally wowed by the light and music show at the waterfall, not everyone felt the same. Some visitors argued that the cave’s natural charm is enough and doesn’t need the extra flair. In fact, we’ve been on this tour when the light show was out of order, and trust us, it wasn’t as jaw-dropping without it. As for the tours, yes, there are several going on at the same time. You’ll pause now and then to let other groups pass, but we never felt like we were in a traffic jam. Lastly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room—or should we say, the pump in the cave? Rumor has it that a pump keeps Ruby Falls flowing in dry spells. Pump or no pump, Ruby Falls didn’t lose its magic for us. It’s a cool thing to ponder if you’re the curious type, though!

Cool lighting in cave formations
Cool lighting is utilized at various locations

Even though most of the trail is repeated on the way back, the view is different and still awe inspiring.

Mirror pool
The Mirror Pool at Ruby Falls offers a serene moment of reflection, perfectly capturing the waterfall’s image for a magical, doubled effect.

With the varied rock formations, creative lighting, ease of access, and waterfall, Ruby falls cave tour has to be one of my all time favorite cave tour experiences to date.

Tips for Ruby Falls Cave Tour

  • Plan ahead: Holidays, Summer months, and the weekend are all extremely busy, so book your Ruby falls tickets in advance. If your driving in from Nashville, use your Google maps arrival time to book your tickets based on your arrival time.
  • Bring a jacket: The temperature in the cave stays around 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so be sure to bring a light jacket or sweater.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: The cave can be damp and slippery, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes with good traction. Avoid sandals or flip-flops.
  • Explore the other attractions: While at Ruby Falls, be sure to also check out Lookout Mountain and the Rock City Gardens, both of which are located nearby.
  • Other activities: You might want to check out the Ruby Falls Zip lines. We haven’t tried it yet, but the area would make for some spectacular views!

Why Ruby Falls Is a Must-Visit

Ruby Falls is a hidden gem that should not be missed when visiting Chattanooga. With its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and unique geological features, it’s no wonder that it has become a popular destination for visitors from around the world. By following these local tips and facts, you can ensure that you have an unforgettable experience at Ruby Falls.

About our
rating of Ruby Falls
We gave Ruby Falls a 4.5 out of 5 because it’s nearly perfect, though slight crowding on the tours and it taking on the rumors about the pump, give us pause. Nonetheless, the cave’s natural beauty and the awe-inspiring waterfall experience make it a must-see!