Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Review of Lost River Caverns, PA

The Lost River Caverns in Hellertown, Pennsylvania has always been a point of interest for me.  I would drive by the billboards on Rt. 78 and wonder, 'What is that place like?'  I asked friends for advice, searched online for reviews, and got such a mish-mosh of responses (from, 'It's cheesy and old!' to, 'It's cool!') that I figured I had to see for myself.

Where is Lost River Caverns?

The caverns are located in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, not far off of Rt. 78.  When we went (around lunch time on a Tuesday in the summer), there was construction off of the exit onto rt. 412, but nothing that caused us any trouble.  We were coming from Hunterdon county, New Jersey, so the trip was only about 30 minutes for us.  On a second trip there, we still encountered construction on rt. 412 (nothing awful, just messy) and from nearby Somerset county, it took us about 45 minutes to get there.


The Jersey Cave Momma's Boy and The Jersey Cave Momma! Where is Mr. Jersey Momma?

What Will I See There?

Friends told us it was 'cheesy and old' and 'small and cool.' I found that it was all of these things.  Much like Roadside America and Northlandz, this is an attraction that has been around for decades. The main lobby is a little dusty and could use some new paint and a good cleaning (sorry, guys, but it's true).  It smells like a basement (but in all fairness, there is a cave in there). The bathrooms were not in the greatest condition, but they're indoors and they work!  Anyway, I digress. Don't let the 'old' factor fool you, it's still pretty cool. Read on!

Inside the lobby of the Lost Caverns.

When you enter the lobby of The Lost River Caverns (a tiny little building stuck in the mountain), you check in at the front desk and they inform you when the next tour is.  You don't have to pay anything until the tour is over, and as of the publication of this entry, fees were $12.50 for adults and $7.75 for kids 3-12 (always check their website for pricing info).  They no longer offer a AAA discount, so unfortunately, that's not an option.

The entrance is above the gift shop, where the windows are.
This is my kind of place!

We didn't have to wait long for the tour (maybe 10 minutes?), so we were able to explore and take some photos.  There was a huge dinosaur/waterfall display and a gift shop to wander around in before the tour.


Lobby of the Lost River Caverns

The Lost River Caverns Tour

Our tour guide was named Andy and he was very knowledgeable and friendly (we also had a second tour guide on another trip named Lexi, who was equally fabulous).  The Jersey Momma's Boy was so excited to go down into a real cave that I thought he was going to burst!  Standing in front of the cave entrance is a thrill as you stare down the path.  I mean, look at it!  How cool is that?  I actually think the anticipation at the entrance was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Cave entrance- cool, right?

We were fortunate to be in a small group of about 15 people, but we did pass very large groups of at least 20-25 people.  Andy led us through the cave and told us about its history and beauty.  There were so many neat facts to learn about the cave and the 'lost river,' which you actually get to see (it's so crystal clear, it looks like a mirror).  I don't want to give everything away, so you'll just have to take the tour and learn for yourself.

Inside the cave- wowee!!

Things To Know

It's chilly down there!  So bring a sweatshirt or wear something warm.  The cave maintains a constant 52 degrees, but it is damp and being down there for 30 minutes gives you kind of a 'cave chill' after a while.  The floor is wet (I was told it is always wet) so wear good walking shoes with socks.  The walk is not dangerous or treacherous, but there are a few places where you have to watch your head or face as you're walking.  There are handrails to hold onto if you need them, but you can't touch the rocks. It is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.

I'm in a cave and my legs look fabulous!

It might help to bring a little flashlight.  The path is lit well enough, but the boy next to me had a little flashlight on a string around his neck and he was shining that on the rock walls to see them better.  I thought that was a cool idea (he also had a flip phone which he was using to take pictures.  This has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was cute that he had a flip phone).  I was using the flashlight on my smartphone, which worked well, too.

The cave ceiling at Lost River Caverns

There are no bats and no bugs, so don't worry if you're afraid of creepy crawlies.  You won't find that here.  As far as caves go, I think this one was pretty clean!

At one point a huge drop of water dripped onto my forehead and splashed right in my eyes (figures!).  They say this is good luck and called a 'cave kiss.' It won't cause you any harm, but if you get freaked out about stuff like that, then wear a hat or a hoodie.

Rock formation inside the Lost River Caverns

The tour was only about 30 minutes. Some reviewers online complained that the tour was too short and that Lost River did not have as much to offer as other caves in Pennsylvania.  But for a Jersey Momma and her 6 year old boy (and his grandparents!) this was the perfect amount of time.  It was hard enough for a little boy to stand and listen intently to a tour guide for that amount of time anyway.  We visited with a friend a second time when the Jersey Momma's Boy was 7 (his friend was almost 9) and they really, really enjoyed it.  I don't think you can go wrong with this trip, really.  Our tour both times contained a mix of age groups.

At the end of the tour, I noticed some people tipping our tour guide.  I didn't even realize that you're supposed to tip a tour guide and I had no singles on me anyway.  So Andy, I'm sorry if I gypped you, dude.

The Gift Shop

The Jersey Momma's boy usually despises gift shops, much to my dismay (and delight, I guess, as I don't have to worry about him begging for souvenirs).  But he liked this one.  There were a lot of funky things (and cheesy things, too, but that's sometimes the fun of it).  He really enjoyed rifling through their barrel of polished stones that were 4 for $1.00.  I liked their chocolate candy rocks and their rock collection pencil. We also got a cave coloring book and a mini rocks/minerals identification book.  Parents will appreciate that there were many gift choices for $1.00 or less.

Lost River Caverns Souvenir Shop

Gem Panning and Nature Trail

The weather did not permit us to use the Lost Caverns' nature trail, but there was a little sign and staircase to explore if you happen to arrive on a sunny day.  The gem panning was really neat, though.  For about $3.77 we purchased a small bag of sandy silt at the gift shop.  After we left the shop, we took the bag with us to the panning area, which is like a little trough of flowing water.  The kids were able to dump their sandy bag into a tray and wash it in the water to see what rocks and gems they found.  It was really fun and the results were cool.  We got a good selection of rocks for that price, and we didn't even mind that it was drizzling outside!

The gem panning station at Lost River Caverns
Panning for gems outside the Lost River Caverns
Rocks and minerals found while panning!

Is It Worth the Trip?

This is another moment when we must ask ourselves, 'Will my child like this?' Because even though you might see it as cheesy, old and small, your kid sees it as...a cave!!  Which is...just plain cool!!!  

We didn't have to travel far so this was a fun, interesting trip for us.  If you are coming a greater distance, then I suggest you experience all of it- head for the nature trail, do the gem panning, maybe picnic across the street.  Hit up the local Rita's on your way out, too!

More cool cave pics

More Jersey Momma Tips

*Parking is free.  Their main lot is small but there is a larger parking lot across the street that you can also use.

*There are areas across the street where you can sit and eat or picnic, if you like.  This is a good option if the weather is nice!

*There are towns nearby so you can visit the local Rita's or drive a little further to find the local Wendy's, which is near the entrance to Rt. 78.  But other than these two recognizable chains, we couldn't find too many other food choices.  There are a lot of small local places to eat if you're up for that (pizzerias and small tavern types) but I don't know how kid friendly they are.

*The caves are open year round except for major holidays, and the temperature in the cave is always a balmy 52 degrees, no matter what.

*The Jersey Momma is NOT compensated for any trips, unless otherwise specified.  In fact, The Jersey Momma was very grateful that The Jersey Grandpa paid our admission fee.  :)

One thing I have to add about the Lost River Caverns is that everyone working there was super friendly, respectful and just plain nice.  The front desk greeter, our tour guide, the cashier at the souvenir shop- everyone was so polite.  I really appreciate that in any establishment, so kudos to the Lost River Caverns for having such a friendly staff, and thank you for a fun day trip.  Now go and plan your trip at www.lostcave.com  Have fun!

Disclaimer:  As previously stated, I was not compensated by Lost River Caverns but I did add some fun affiliate links below from Amazon if you want to shop for some cool rock collecting books or kits. I highly recommend the National Geographic Kids book of Rocks and Minerals.  It's one of our favorites.  Go for it!


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