Dunbar Cave State Park is a small park located in Clarksville, Tennessee approximately 1 hour northwest of Nashville. This small park is historical landmark of Clarksville and holds one of the most beautiful caves in this area. It’s a must see when visiting this small town. You can find anything from deers, fawns, squirrels, to even the rushing water going through the cave and out below.
Our Visit To Dunbar Cave State Park
I’ve been to Dunbar Cave several times to walk their trails but I will tell you about our last two visits which were pretty amazing.
It was beginning of October on a beautiful sunny day when I had finished dropping off my daughter Bella at school. I made the 5 hour round trip to Toney, Alabama to pick up my grandmother who was going to stay with us for a few weeks visiting. Once I had arrived back to Clarksville, my grandma (abuela Cecilia) had asked me about any places to visit. We had arrived earlier then expected and still had time to do something before going to pick up Bella at school.
We ended up going to a small farmers market nearby that had the best fruits and vegetables that I have tasted in a long time. Afterwards, we drove around looking for a strawberry field but it was already closed for the season so we ended up going to Dunbar Cave instead. It had been a while since I had visited the park so it was exciting to be back.
My grandma, youngest daughter Isa, and I started our little adventure at their museum. It had a slight history of the park and the previous owners along with some educational facts about the caves. After a quick look at the museum, we headed out to the trails.
Our first stop on the trail was the caves. We didn’t go inside the caves as they were closed for the season due to the bats hibernating but we were able to enjoy the outside area. This locations was used to host parties and concert. How cool would it have been to listen to a band by a cave on their outdoor patio. It must have been such an exciting and unique experience.
Our second stop on the trail was when we saw a deer. My grandma has a slight obsession with the beauty of a deer and had to admire it. They weren’t even scared of us, which was pretty sad, but we did keep our distance and never approached them. We also saw some squirrels, gorgeous green ferns, and some pretty cool trees before ending our hike.
Over the weekend, my mom decided to visit us so we decided to go again and take her. This time I took my camera. I just had to get a good shot of the wildlife here and luckily I was able to capture the beauty of a fawn as she ate.
Planning Your Trip
Dunbar Cave State Park has no fees which is great. The trail is fairly short making it a good and easy trip for you and your family to do. Tours do charge a fee though but it’s a small charge.
Address: 401 Dunbar Cave Rd, Clarksville, TN 37043
Phone: (931) 648-5526
Fees: 13 ages and older $10, 5-12 years $5, children under age of 5 are not allowed in the cave. Read more about it here.
What To Bring
Comfortable shoes for hiking
Mosquito Repellent (during the warmer months)
Warm clothing (for the winter months)
Food for a picnic if you plan to have a picnic.
About The State Park
Dunbar Cave State Park is 110 acre park filled with caves, sinkholes, and a flowing stream. The cave itself remains at a good 58 degrees all year round. Tours inside the cave are open during the summer months but closed during the winter months due to bat hibernation. This is due to the bats in this cave testing positive for White Nose Syndrome (more details below).
Apart from the cave and the wildlife, Dunbar Cave State Park is a nice and relaxing spot to go to just to hang out with your family for a picnic or even a short walk along the trails that run around the top of the caves.
About The Trail
The trail is about a 1.9 mile loop. All Trails website says it is heavily trafficked but it all depends on the time of year and time of day that you go. Weekdays and during the school season seems to have less traffic then during the summer months and weekends. The trail is rated as moderate but in my own personal opinion it should be rated as easy. Both of my daughters did it without any issues and still had enough energy to keep on going.
Length: 1.9 mile loop
Elevation: 282 feet
Difficulty Level: Easy-Moderate
About The Bats and White Nose Syndrome
White Nose Syndrome is a fungus that is carried on back affecting their wings, muzzle, and ears. This fungus can cause abnormal activity on the bats such as daytime flying and you can see the white fungus around the muzzle and ears. Infected bats sadly experience numerous physiologic changes that result in weight loss, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and death affecting over 5.5 million bats in the USA alone since 2006.
This syndrome has been reported to not be contagious or affect humans. Proper precautions are being taken to avoid more issues in the decrease of the bat population. Bats play an important role in our agricultural field by eating insects that kill our crops. This means that farmers save millions on pesticides
You can read more about this syndrome here.
How White Nose Syndrome kills bats (read here).
History Of Dunbar Cave State Park
“Thomas Dunbar and his family settled the land containing the cave in 1784. Dunbar thought that he had title to the land, but due to incorrect paperwork he was never actually the legal owner. The first known owner, Robert Nelson, claimed the land in 1792. Mr. Dunbar and his family were ejected from the land (Dunbar immediately purchased the land next to the cave property and lived there until his death in 1826). The cave retained Dunbar’s name as he was the first settler to live there.
The entrance to Dunbar Cave is 58 degrees year-round which was a popular attraction during the summer months. After the Civil War, the first resort was built in the area surrounding Dunbar Cave. By the 1930s, the cave became a hotspot for local bands and other entertainment. In 1948, country music legend Roy Acuff bought the property and staged his Saturday Night Radio Dance Broadcast from the site. The cave’s popularity declined in the 1950s when indoor air-conditioning became common in households. In 1973, Governor Winfield Dunn purchased the property and designated it a state natural area.” – Tennessee State Parks, Dunbar Cave State Park
This brief history is found here along with other information about this state park.
So next time you are close to Nashville or in Clarksville make sure to checkout this beautiful trail filled with wildlife. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget that if you come during the time hibernation is not occurring, you can also do the tour of the inside of the cave.
Disclaimer: Please always practice Leave No Trace. Proceed with caution and always watch the weather and warning signs. Obey any rules or regulations that the park may have. Respect others, nature, and wildlife. Never touch or attempt to get close to any animal. Always keep a safe distance for your safety and theirs. This post is to serve you as an inspirational guide.
State Parks can be such a great find sometimes – I’m surprised there is no fee at yours! One of the first things I did when I moved to Arizona was buy an annual state parks pass so we could check them all out! Much less crowded than neighboring national parks, and most state parks allow dogs!
Yes there’s several here that are free but some of their activities or tours you have to pay for. The trails here are free though which is awesome cause it’s such a relaxing place to go to even if its just to take pictures.
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