Exploring Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee

I made my way to Chattanooga after spending a few days exploring Huntsville, Alabama. The goal, simple, to experience one of the unique places that makes this Tennessee destination so popular. After reviewing my options, I plotted a course to Ruby Falls, a privately owned waterfall. But this waterfall was located inside a mountain?


Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, Tennessee

A look at Ruby Falls

I never realized waterfalls exist inside mountain cave systems until just a few years ago when I traversed the canyons and waterfalls deep inside Chorreadero waterfall cave on an adventure in Tuxtla Chiapas. Incredible. And although Ruby falls was not an extreme adventure as it was accessible to everyone, it certainly was an extremely impressive site.

History of the Ruby Falls – Who is Ruby?

Leo Lambert, a local to the area of Chattanooga and cave enthusiast decided to reopen the old Lookout Mountain Cave as a tourist attraction in the late 1920s. It originally closed in 1905 thanks to the creation of a local railway, but after knowing the place as a child his dream was to reopen the cave. His team also decided to drill down from the top to install elevator access the cave, but part of the way through the limestone rock, they discovered a small open passage. So, they entered and explored.

passage way throigh the hall of the dreams in Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Easier to walk through today

Crawling hours through tight passages unable to even stand up at times, he eventually discovered a cave system that led him to a 145 foot waterfall. His brave efforts paid off.

On his next visit, he decided to take his wife Ruby with him and named the waterfall after her – Ruby Falls. Before 1930 both cave systems (the new Ruby Falls and Look Out Cave were both open to the public to view all the stalactites and stalagmites, columns, drapery, and flowstone, but the Ruby Falls was clearly the more popular and in a depression era access to the original cave would eventually close by the mid 1930s.

Ruby Falls Today

Guided tours take groups of 20-30 tourists at a time (there is often a wait) through the largely single passage (at times you stop to let others pass through) navigating the  caverns to see the standing waterfalls 1,000 feet below the surface.  The tour lasts 90 minutes and is more entertaining and impressive than just the five minutes each group gets to spend appreciating the waterfall itself.  Inside you learn the history of the cave, and appreciate the many “named” rock formations on display, from the fish, the elephants foot, the donkey,, the dragon’s foot,  and more like through the hall of dreams.

Dragon's Foot - Ruby Falls Chattanooga, Tennessee

Dragon’s Foot

Donkey Ruby Falls Chattanooga Tennessee

the Donkey

5 minutes in the cave with Ruby Falls Chattanooga, Tennessee

special tours may give more private access

Of course, it is a tourist attraction and can be crowded, but the experience to walk under through such unique and beautiful cave formations and eventually witness such a beautiful waterfall is worth the price of admission when in Chattanooga.  Access costs $21.95 per adult and $12.95 per child (3-12, kids 2 and under are free) and visitors can also buy combination packages that include a rail and zipline or even special tours such as a lattern tour.

Yet, regardless of what type of ticket, definitely make sure you take the steps up to the top of the Look Out Point to see the view of the river after the tour below and that is free.

the view from look out mountain chattanooga, tennessee

What a view from Lookout Mountain


Stay adventurous, Craig

WIN – Heading to Chattanooga?  An Adult Access to Aquarium

If anyone is heading to Chattanooga (or from Chattanooga) make a comment below and be entered to win free admission to the local Tennessee Aquarium. The comp ticket expires 06/03/20, but you’ll receive it by Christmas. Contest ends 12/15/19.

fish Ruby Falls Chattanooga, Tennessee

Want to see real fish, not cave “art” win a ticket to the Tennessee Aquarium

Also, special thanks to Visit Chattanooga (Chattanooga Fun) for providing access to Ruby Falls. Please know the photos, stories and opinions are, as always, uniquely my own.

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  • Maggie Mistal

    Such a cool natural feature to see in person – looks beautiful and love the interesting rock formations!

    • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ craig zabransky

      It was such a surprise…. so beautiful and SO accessible for everyone.

      I know there are more to see in Chattanooga too, looking forward to a return visit. Stay on the Choo-Choo, Craig