Editor’s Note: This blog was updated from a past New York By Rail experience visiting Howe Caverns
Roaming through limestone corridors, vast galleries and beneath colossal boulders, I’m 156 feet below the earth’s surface in a cave, six million years in the making. With strange formations, flowing sheets and dripping stalactites, the solid rock walls appear fluid-like. Continuing down a well-worn path, winding through the shadowy depths, I reach a pristine underground lake that stretches into absolute darkness in the cave’s Eastern Terminus. This is the Howe Caverns ultimate experience.
Howe Caverns in 2021
The popular, Howe Caverns is open for visiting and is a prime natural attraction. The caverns are the perfect place to visit if you enjoy exploring New York’s natural environments. There are several other attractions at the caverns that vary from boat rides to escape rooms. Beginning on July 1, 2021, the caverns expanded their hours, being open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day. In order to experience the Traditional Cave Tours, you’ll be required to make advanced reservations online.
Attractions at the caverns include Howe to Escape, Howe Glassworks, Howe High Adventure, Cave Tours and the seasonal Naked in a Cave and the Haunted Cave Tour. Unfortunately, Howe Glassworks and Howe High Adventure will not be open this year, but this doesn’t mean the caverns will be any less fun to experience.
Howe to Escape
The escape room at Howe Caverns is a more recent installation titled, Howe to Escape. In the escape room you figure out how to escape the Ultra-Max penitentiary, or “The Cave.” The backstory behind the fictional Max-Penitentiary is an inescapable prison that even the most infamous of criminals cannot escape.
Howe to Escape is another example of the creative innovation of the Howe Caverns’ staff. If you’re looking for more immersive and creative fun, you’ll want to return in October for the Haunted Cave Tour.
The Traditional Tour
The 90-minute tour at Howe Caverns begins in the above-ground study of the cave’s claimant, Lester Howe. Located atop a beautiful mountainside with spectacular views overlooking the Helderberg Plateau, I enjoy the entertaining tale, by Howe himself, of how he discovered the cave system before taking an elevator down to the main vestibule where the journey begins.
Titan’s Temple | Photo Courtesy of Howe Caverns
The Bridal Altar | Photo Courtesy of Howe Caverns
The Lake of Venus | Photo Courtesy of Howe Caverns
Touring the caves is a unique, memorable experience. Both a historical and natural wonder, the caverns appeal to both diehard spelunkers and families.
Topside, I head over to the Sweet Shop and dig into the half-pound of mint cookie crumble fudge, made on-site, which is included with my Tour and Stay Package. Others opt for chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter. There’s also maple nut, key lime pie, rocky road and more. The tour also includes a large bag of gemstone mining rough and a souvenir in my room.
Lodging at the Howe Caverns Motel
Standard guest rooms or family suites, each with a spectacular view of the Helderberg Plateau and a souvenir bag of gemstone mining rough.
The Tour and Stay Package* includes:
- One night’s stay at the Howe Caverns Motel.
- Two adult tickets for the Traditional Howe Caverns Tour
- ½ pound of homemade fudge, made on site
- One large bag of gem mining rough
- A Howe Caverns souvenir
*Rates Do Not Include Sales Tax
There’s a quaint café on site. Howe Caverns is also in close proximity to scenic bike rides and hiking trails and other attractions in Central New York.
Click here for more information. To make a reservation call 518-296-8900.
The current day lodge. | Photo Courtesy of Howe Caverns
History of Howe Caverns
Scientists believe nature began to slowly carve Howe Caverns over six million years ago. The caverns continue to form today.
Prior to the arrival of the German Palatine Settlers in the Schoharie Valley in the early 1700s, Native Americans called the caverns, “Otsgaragee” or “Great Valley Cave”. However, little native knowledge of Otsgaragee remained by the early 1800s, when Lester Howe and his family settled in the valley east of Cobleskill.
Historians credit Howe, a farmer, with the discovery of Howe Caverns, however, his cows really deserve the credit. Noticing they were drawn to an area of his neighbor’s property, Howe investigated, discovering the spot was significantly cooler. On May 22, 1842, Howe and his neighbor, Henry Wetsel, searched the grounds and discovered the opening to the caverns. Excited by their discovery, the two men delved deeper each day. Then, in February 1843, Howe purchased the land from his neighbor and turned the cavern into a commercial venture.
A tour during the late 1800s. | Photo Courtesy of Howe Caverns
After its sale in 1898, the caverns closed to the public until new owners redeveloped the site in the 1920s. The cavern reopened to the public with elevators, brick pathways, lights and handrails in 1929. Today the caverns are the second-most visited natural attraction in the state of New York, welcoming 150,000 to 200,000 visitors per year.
Take Amtrak to Howe Caverns
Don’t forget to use the New York By Rail 15% discount!
From SDY: Enterprise picks you up at the station and takes you to your reserved #NYTRAIN Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Click here to reserve your car, or call Enterprise’s Schenectady office, Tel. 518-374-7890.
The establishment provides ground transportation from ALB or SDY if you stay at the Howe Caverns Motel.
Lantern Tour Package
The Lantern Tour Package transports you back in time and allows you to experience the caves as Lester Howe did upon discovering them. Explore the caves with the light of your lantern for an immersive adventure.
Friday and Saturday evenings, year-round. The tour lasts approximately two hours. Limited to 12 guests. Advance reservations are required.
Sweetheart Tour Package
Wine for two and special chocolate treats upon arrival in your room. This romantic tour package is perfect for a getaway with your partner. Enjoy your wine and homemade fudge while taking in gorgeous views from the Motel.
Ultimate Couples Package
A most special, adventurous date night! Tours of the caverns and the Signature Rock Discovery Tour, plus upscale dining for two at the American Hotel Restaurant and gem mining with a special keepsake of your own creation.
Culinary Delight Package
After your tour of the caverns, enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by owner/chef Jeannette Balins at her acclaimed restaurant, A Taste of Europe, located at The American Hotel in Sharon Springs. Try a delicious appetizer, salad, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage.
Sunday Family Flashlight Tour Package
A fun, educational adventure for families! A variation of the Lantern Tour with flashlights and headlamps. Tour the limestone cave that was created by the underground river. This tour is modeled after the lantern tour, but instead of lanterns, you’ll be exploring with flashlights, which makes it easier for children to participate. The tour also includes a boat ride on the Lake of Venus.
Adventure Park Package
Although Howe High Adventure is currently closed for the 2021 season, it’s still a remarkable experience when it’s open. Once it reopens, after your tour of the caverns, challenge yourself on Howe High Adventure’s zip line, ropes course, rock wall and in the H2OGO ball.