Even hardy outdoor adventurers are sometimes limited by season and temperature, but venture underground and you can explore year-round. Get spelunking at one of these accessible Canadian caves.
With its abundance of limestone, there are more than 1,600 known caves on Vancouver Island. Located in Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, this is one of the province’s most popular and accessible caverns, with crystal formations measuring more than 12 metres tall and stalactites dating back 35,000 years. Guided tours are “challenge by choice,” meaning there’s usually a way around if you don’t fancy crawling through tiny crevices.
A Provincial Historic Site, Rat’s Nest cave takes you back through thousands of years of natural history. Here you’ll see 300-year-old pictographs and 7,000 year-old animal bones. At four kilometres, Rat’s Nest is also one of Canada’s longest caves. Exciting discoveries have been made in this cave including a small, rare cave crustacean and North America’s smallest mammal, the pigmy shrew (a mouse-like creature). Thrill seekers looking to amp up their cave exploration can book an adventure tour and rappel 18 metres (or six stories) deeper underground.
Winter is an especially magical time to visit this cave as its large opening allows cold air to breeze through to form fantastic ice stalactites and stalagmites in winter. The rest of this massive cave retains a constant temperature of 4°C and can be explored on a variety of tours. Guides take visitors through narrow passageways and into underground rooms while discussing the cave’s 13,000-year history. Be sure to look up, past the frozen stalactites and stalagmites to spot hundreds of hibernating bats dangling from the ceiling.
Deep within heavily forested southern New Brunswick lies a secret ice cave. A stream that freezes over a cliff face morphs into an ice wall each winter. While you don’t have to venture underground to access this cave, visitors must trek down into a deep valley (ropes anchored to trees provide assistance) to find this natural wonder. As you weave your way through sheets of ice and massive icicles, it’s like you’re in Narnia.