About 400 million years ago, an ancient underground river began carving away the Earth’s crust below modern-day Blountville. And over the next 200 million years, thousands of species came and went, while the river continued to create huge cavernous chambers with a strange and mystical presence.

Around 1300 years ago, Early Woodland Native Americans found the cave, and used it as a sacred meeting place and secret hideout. And when the Cherokee wanted to attack unsuspecting settlers during the American Revolution, they used the cave as an escape route and “disappeared as if swallowed up by the Earth.”

And in the years since, Appalachian Caverns has played a key role in the stories of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and the War Between the States. It’s the largest show cave in East Tennessee, and arguably the most beautiful in the world.

There are multiple tours available, from “Regular” to “Extreme” (or “Easy Stroll” to “On-your-belly slither”), so you and your kids may have different ideas about the best way to see the cave… But you’ll all agree: it’s an incredible way to see a 400 million-year-old masterpiece in the making.

Learn more about Appalachian Caverns here.

(NOTE: Photos within this post provided courtesy of Khristina Bowen at Bowen Photography. Read more about her in the Artists/Contributors section.)