Review: Ruby Falls
Quick videos of Ruby Falls
Tips for visiting Ruby Falls
- Entry is timed. Select a morning slot to avoid the crowds.
- Arrive about 5 minutes early to the entrance elevator to the cave (through the gift shop to the cafe). Be sure to have your ticket (digital or print) ready to be scanned.
- Try to position yourself at the front of the queue as the tour begins. You’ll hear more of the tour guides conversation, plus be able to ask questions more frequently.
- While there are WiFi Hotspots in the caverns, avoid using them for live social broadcasts. The light and sound is disturbing to other guests.
- Feel free to pause and snap photos of the cave’s unique features. Just be considerate of those behind you and not take up too much time.
- The cave is a busy place and you’ll likely be asked to squeeze to the side and let other groups pass. If you don’t want your feet stepped on, squeeze tight.
- If you enjoyed the tour guide’s commentary, feel free to tip a few bucks. But it’s not required.
- After the tour, enjoy the gift shop. Like Rock City Gardens, the staff at Ruby Falls have a great knack at finding souvenirs that are a bit different.
Going up – then down – to Ruby Falls
If you’re staying in Chattanooga proper, then you’ll find yourself “going up – to go down” Ruby Falls. Why? Because, like Rock City Gardens, it is located up on Lookout Mountain. And once there, you’ll have to descend 260 feet back down into the mountain, via elevator, to get to the caverns.
Be aware: you’ll have to navigate a few winding roads to get up Lookout Mountain to Ruby Falls. But don’t worry – that’s half the fun. We took my 2021 Toyota Tacoma on our visit and it easily handled the steep grades – both up and down the mountain. Just be sure to use your lower gear on the downtrip.
Ruby Falls is a cave with easy access and modern comforts
Ruby Falls is a rare type of cave system as it was positioned inside a mountain and totally unaccessible by humans. When Leo Lambert discovered it by accident during drilling to reach another cave system, the original passage was quite a struggle to crawl. In fact, he had to crawl for hours and hours before he discovered the falls. But thankfully you don’t have to as tons of stone were painstakingly removed to make access easier and the stone then used to build a magnificent castle tower above the cave’s entrance.
As a result, unlike many other caves you may have visited, Ruby Falls has the benefit of a completely manmade access walk that features a gentler (and safer) slope to walk, lots of handrails, and plenty of electrical access. And, most surprisingly, they have WiFi hotspots throughout the cave.
A light show like no other
I’ve been to many, many caves including the world’s largest cave system at Mammoth Cave in my ancestorial home of Kentucky (what a spectacular cave system). And to numerous other smaller caves. But none has provided the dazzling spectacle of color that Ruby Falls does as the light dances off stalagtites, shiny smooth walls, and other features, making its way deep into the darkened crevices all around.
The use of vibrant color adds much to the vitality of Ruby Falls and is all thanks to the ample access to electricity – and the fact they are not a national or state park. This gives them a great deal of freedom to provide a much different experience than found in those public-owned caverns.
That’s what really makes Ruby Falls worth a visit: the spectacle of light and color. Combined with the power of the falls as you near them . . . the sound of rushing water echoing against the cave walls . . . and a very slight wind (almost unnoticable) that pushes out from it . . . you experience a thrill you’ll never get elsewhere.
Arriving at the falls
As you journey the well paved path to the falls, you encounter numerous unique geological specimens, including my favorite: steak and potatoes. Since my last visit back in the ’70s (article at Retro-Travel) I’m surprised someone didn’t try to eat it up, it looks so real. And many beautiful little ponds, illuminated by colorful lights. Plus, masses of stalagtites hanging dartfully above your head. I noticed one or two had broken off and I thought to myself “did it put somebody’s eye out?” This was one time I didn’t linger to find out.
Upon reaching the falls, you will be impressed. When I was a child we were allowed to walk around them. I clearly remember hitting my head against the low rock ceiling. I suppose that (and getting a bit of spray from the falls) is the reason that path is now closed. Instead, you are led to stand directly in front of the falls in all their glory as whimsical colors dance upon them.
Like Rock City Gardens, Ruby Falls offers modern and well maintained facilities, a friendly staff, and a nice dining option. They also have a great gift shop that is worth your time. Combined with the parade of colors throughout the cave and, most impressively, on the falls, we rate Ruby Falls 4.5 out of 5 stars and suggest adding it as your number 2 stop during your weekend getaway to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
READ PART 1: Why you should “See Rock City” on a weekend getaway.
PART 3: Coming soon, our third pick for things to do during your weekend getaway in Chattanooga, Tennessee: The Incline Railroad.
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