Ruby Falls is part of a series of cascading waterfalls deep inside a cave within Lookout Mountain. The waterfall that we see inside the cave is a 70′ waterfall at the very end of the cave. Although it’s mostly known for this waterfall, and it is impressive, I found the cave and cave structures just as impressive.
- Cave with 4/5’s of a mile loop
- 70′ Waterfall
- Lookout tower
- Free parking
- Cafe and gift shop
- Masks reccomended for unvaccinated, Updated to reccomended for all on August 8th.
Date visited – 7/26/2021
Parking is free. Even though there were hundreds of people there, there were enough parking spots available. It has several levels to the parking area. It doesn’t feel cramped. There were at least two charging spots for electric vehicles. A crosswalk with lights gives the pedestrians the right of way.
Tickets and Entry
Currently you have to preorder your ticket, no tickets are sold onsite. Tickets are purchased online through their website. You have to select the day and time you want to visit. It was $22.95 for adult tickets. There are several other options on their website. When we got there they asked for our last name and quickly found our reservation. We had the email ready, just in case. Fortunately, the area has a good cell signal if you do need to access an email.
They pointed to the bathrooms and the area we were supposed to go. It was easy to follow. We just got in line when they called for our time. They didn’t require a mask and we were close to other people in our tour group. There were several signs that said they recommended wearing a mask if you’re not vaccinated. No one asked, so they just leave that up to you.
Ruby Falls Cave
To access the Ruby Falls cave, we got on an elevator with about half the people on our tour. Our tour guide, a young man who was fun to listen to, met us and took us to the beginning area where we waited on the rest of the people on our tour. The elevator has a glass front, so you see the rockface as you descend. It took us over 260 feet down into the mountain, but since the tour took us under the mountain, we ended up over 1120 feet deep. The website says it’s around 60 degrees inside the cave. It did feel cool, but not cold.
There was a photography area, but there was no one to take photos. I wouldn’t have bought them anyway, but I’m sure some would have. Our tour guide took us to an area where we watched a short video about the history of Ruby Falls. It was fascinating and I enjoyed learning about it and how it got the name, Ruby Falls.
He then started the tour, leading us through the cave, telling fun facts and puns along the way. He mentioned several of the formations as we passed them. The cave was lit just enough to see and walk safely. Some areas were narrow. Some ceilings were low, but it wasn’t a problem. Our guide pointed out all of the difficult areas. We did have to stand to one side several times to allow the tours that were leaving the cave to pass by. Other tours did the same for us on our way back out.
The cave is mostly horizontal limestone. There are several common cave formations throughout the cave including stalagmites, stalactites, ribbons, etc. There isn’t an abundance of them, but they are there. Most have signs to highlight them.
It took about 45 minutes to get to the waterfall. The walk was enjoyable. It was mostly flat, but there were a few small stairs. It wasn’t a difficult hike. There were a few wet places, but they weren’t too slippery and our guide pointed them out. There were lots of narrow places to squeeze through. It would be too difficult for anyone with strollers or wheelchairs.
The return trip took us on a couple of different short paths, but it was mostly on the same path. We could see a few things that we didn’t see on the way in because of where they were.
Ruby Falls Waterfall
When we got to the Ruby Falls waterfall, we waited for another group to leave before we could enter. Our guide gave us some information about the natural waterfall and warned us against drinking the water (it’s 14% magnesium).
Our guide took us inside a large room with a very tall ceiling. We could hear the waterfall and some music playing, but the lights were dark and the light on the waterfall was off. After everyone was in the room, they turned on the lights and the music became louder. The music was atmospheric and wasn’t too loud to hear the waterfall. The lights on the waterfall changed color between several shades and eventually was just clear light. This gave us a good view of the 70′ waterfall. The pool was 6.5′ deep and goes off to one side and then under the rocks.
We were in the room for about 7 minutes. This gave us enough time to look at the waterfall and take some photos. Several of us took photos for others in the group so they wouldn’t have to rely on just selfies.
Our tour guide brought us back to the giftshop and pointed to where we’d find the gift items, entrance to the tower, and the ziplines. The shop had a lot of rocks and the standard gift shop items such as mugs, water bottles, shirts, stuffed animals, etc.
Lookout Mountain Tower
The castle tower was made from the limestone they brought up when drilling into the cave. To get to the tower, we took several flights of stairs until we got to the top of the building. We took the elevator when we went back down. There is a long walkway to the tower. The tower itself has two platforms. We went to both. This gives you a good view of Chattanooga. I don’t like heights, but this didn’t bother me too badly.
We didn’t ride the ziplines, but they were easy to see behind the building. They rode along the side of the mountain.
I enjoyed Ruby Falls. Some reviewers have accused Ruby Falls of not being a real waterfall, but you can tell by the natural rock formations and shape of the room that it’s a real waterfall. I like caves and the waterfall was just icing on the cake. The tour kept us moving and there wasn’t much time to stop and look at many of the cave formations. I did pause a lot for quick photos and no one seemed to mind. I would have liked to have gone even slower and heard even more information about the geology of the cave on the tour.
Would you go back? Yes, but it’s not something I would return to a lot or go several times close together. I don’t feel like I missed anything in the cave, so I wouldn’t see something I didn’t see the first time. I’d go back sooner if it was a slower tour that gave more information about each of the formations. If another family member wanted to go, I’d go with them.
It was an enjoyable trip. They changed their mask recommendation to everyone should wear one regardless of vaccination status just over a week after we were there and I’m glad. There were only a few of us wearing masks on the tour we took. Seeing all the rock formations was very interesting but I do wish they took just a little more time getting you through the cave so you could stop and really look at more of the formations. The main waterfall, Ruby Falls, is beautiful and they do give you enough time to enjoy it.
Would you go back? It is definitely worth seeing once. I’ll probably only go back if I go with a group that hasn’t seen it or if they offer special slower tours. I think I would prefer it not at the height of tourist season when the groups might be a little smaller.
Who Should Visit
Anyone that likes natural caves or underground waterfalls would enjoy Ruby Falls. Because of the natural formations and narrow passages the cave tour is not wheelchair accesible. Strollers are also not permitted and the site recommends front or back carriers for small children who won’t want to walk or stand for at least an hour and a half.
For more information, see the Ruby Falls website.
- 1720 South Scenic Hwy Chattanooga, TN 37409
- 8 am – 8 pm Eastern Time
Also in the area:
- The Incline
- Point Park
- Rock City
Have you visited Ruby Falls? Let us know in the comments.