Crystal Cave

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park


Useful Information

Location: In Sequoia National Park.
Between the Ash Mountain entrance and Giant Forest. From parking lot 800 m hike down Cascade Creek.
No buses, trailers or vehicles over 6 m long on Crystal Cave Road!
(36.587446, -118.830386)
Open: Closed.
[2022]
Fee: Closed.
No discount for National Park or federal passes.
SNHA members get a 25% discount on regular cave tours.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=3300 m, T=9 °C.
Guided tours: D=50 min., L=800 m.
Photography:  
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Joel Despain (S.N.H.A.) (1994): Crystal Cave: A Guidebook to the Underground World of Sequoia National Park Sequoia Natural History Association, 49 pp, USD 9.95, ISBN 1-878441-06-X.
Joel Despain (2003): Hidden Beneath the Mountains, Caves of the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. 128 pp, many colour photos. Cave Books, Ohio, USA, ISBN: 0939748568 Worldamazon.com
Address: Sequoia Natural History Association, HCR-89 Box 10, Three Rivers, CA 93271, Tel: +1-209-565-3134. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

???? two Native Americans die or are interred in Crystal Cave.
1600-1810 burned wood is left behind inside the entrance to Crystal Cave.
28-APR-1918 discovered by A L Medley and C M Webster, two park trail construction employees who were fishing along Cascade Creek on their day off.
30-APR-1918 first exploration led by Walter Fry.
JUL-1918 Marble Hall found in Crystal Cave.
29-MAY-1940 opened to the public.
MAY-1946 the book Crystal Cave by Frank Oberhansley is published.
1957-1958 self-guided tours lead to wide spread vandalism.
1982 operated by Sequoia Natural History Association
MAY-2010 propane generator powered electric light replaced by solar cell powered led light.
2022 closed for the season due to impacts from the KNP Complex Fire to the road and trail.

Description

Crystal Cave occurs in a formation of limestone which was altered under high temperatures and pressure into marble. There are more than 240 karst caves in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park marble. They are famous for impressive speleothems and Crystal Cave is known as the most impressive one. It is located in the Giant Forest area, between Ash Mountain entrance and the Giant Forest museum. There is no ticket office at the cave, tickets must be purchased in advance at Lodgepole or Foothills Visitor Centers!

The entrance to Crystal Cave is closed by an iron gate, looking like a spider's web. The cave is maze-like in character. Marble Hall measures 60 m long, 20 m wide, and is 10 to 15 m high.

This cave is often referenced as Crystal Sequoia Cave, which is a good idea as there are virtually dozens of Crystal Caves all over the world. But the official name is still Crystal Cave.

During winter 2009/2010 the electric light in Crystal Cave was renovated. The light bulbs were replaced by LED (light-emitting diodes) light, which needs only a fraction of the energy. As a result the propane generator which was used to power the cave light was replaced by solar cells. An array of batteries stores the energy from the solar panels. The propane generator is still available for case of emergency, or if by coincidence the energy of the cells is not suffient. This cave is the first show cave managed by the National Park Service which is actually lit by the sun. The renovation was financed with about $300,000 in federal recovery funds and grants.

In September 2021 several fires were ignited by lightning and spread rapidly. After eight days they merged and formed a fire called KNP Complex Fire. It continued for another month and damaged the road and the trails to the cave, finally it ended after significant rainfall. For the repair works and to prevent falling trees, debris flows, and rockfall, the cave was closed for the 2022 season. It is scheduled for reopening in May 2023.