Go underground in Howes Cave, New York, for an exploration of nature located 156 feet below the surface of Schoharie County.

Family at Howe Caverns in Howes Cave, New York (photo courtesy of Visit Schoharie County)

Discovered in 1842, Howe Caverns lies 156 feet below the surface of New York’s Schoharie County, about 38 miles west of Albany, and holds the distinction of being the second-most-visited natural attraction in the state, just behind the roaring flow of Niagara Falls. 

During the attraction’s early days of welcoming visitors during the 19th century, tours lasted eight to 10 hours, most of which was spent descending into the cave. Now, it’s a matter of a 38-second elevator ride to get below the Earth’s surface. 

Carved by an underground river in a process that researchers believe began 6 million years ago, the caverns feature an assortment of fascinating rock formations, such as stalagmites, stalactites and flowstone.

Howe Caverns’ Traditional Tour consists of a 1.25-mile walk, quarter-mile boat ride and 139 steps, and because caves are naturally cooler year-round, a jacket is recommended. 

The tour progresses through 300 feet of narrow canyons and down the stairs to Titan’s Temple, the largest room in the cave. Even this deep below the surface, there is a multitude of colors. The Bronze Room has hues of sulfur yellow, iron rust, the green of waterborne copper and milky white from pure calcite. 

On Friday and Saturday evenings, a two-hour lantern tour allows travelers to see Howe Caverns the way its founder Lester Howe first did. A two-hour Family Flashlight Tour on Sunday nights offers a similar experience to the Lantern Tour, but is geared to explorers 5 and older. (An overnight stay at the Howe Caverns Motel can also be reserved while booking a tour.) 

The more adventurous can opt for the Signature Rock Discovery Tour that lasts three hours and visits seldom-seen portions of the cave. Private tours are also available for those who want to explore the cave at their own pace. 255 Discovery Dr., Howes Cave, New York 12092, 518/296-8900, howecaverns.com