If you’re looking to cool off in Sevierville, head underground…. Seriously.
The Forbidden Caverns, one of the most well-known Sevierville attractions, keeps a temperature of 58 degrees throughout the year and can be a great respite for families, or just yourself, if you’re driving through Sevierville to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge, or Gatlinburg.
Once a place only known to select few, in particular the Eastern Woodland Indians, Forbidden Caverns is now known by people worldwide for its “buried” earthen structures and rock formations. The Eastern Woodland Indians actually used the caverns to their own benefit. When they weren’t traversing East Tennessee’s forests and mountains in search of good hunting grounds, they used the cave in the winter as a shelter. One of the big draws to staying in the caverns, besides its shelter, is the underground river that provided a consistent water supply.
So where did that river come from? Its source is believed to stem from an underground lake found beneath English Mountain. Famous for its spring water, chert or flint can also be found on English Mountain, but in limited quantities. Indians once used both to form arrowheads, knives and scrapers to use for tribal hunting and battle. Calcite formations can still be found growing in the cave as well as other rare rock formations. English Mountain boasts the largest wall of rare cave onyx or dripstones known to exist anywhere.
Moonshine was distilled in the cave from the early 1920s until 1943. The cave’s never-ending water supply and the isolated locale was a moonshiner’s dream in order to brew their homemade Tennessee whiskey.
It wasn’t until 1964 that a group of businessmen began the task of preparing Forbidden Caverns for its grand opening to the public. Forbidden Caverns finally opened in June 1967 following three years of excavation work on the expansive cave.
If you’re making a trip to the caverns these days, a picturesque valley leads you right to the caverns’ opening. You’ll see the peaks of Mount LeConte and English Mountain as make your way through the valley toward the caverns. Along the way, stop and take a look at the grist mill-museum, some primitive farm houses preserved from generations past, and a trout farm.
Looking to make a day of it, well Forbidden Caverns is just a 35-minute drive from Gatlinburg, from Knoxville a short 45 minutes, and should figure into your plans if you’re coming through East Tennessee, specifically the Great Smoky Mountains area. If it’s a tour you’re looking for, plan on at least a 55 minute stop. Cars and buses park for free and guests can peruse the souvenir shop and use the picnic pavilion at their leisure.