meramec caverns formations

Meramec Caverns is one of 7,500 in the state of Missouri. Did you know Missouri is also known as the Cave State? These are the largest commercial caves in the state. Something about the unique formations that can be found in caves attracts me.

Driving along the interstate, you will see signs advertising Jessie James’s hideout and Meramec Caverns every few miles. I’ve been on some not-so-interesting cave tours and felt like I wasted my time, so I wasn’t sure if this would be worth the stop.

Meramec Caverns, with its stunning features, entertaining tour guides, and historic legends, is a convenient stop on your Route 66 journey. Located just a short drive from St. Louis, it’s an easy addition to your travel itinerary.

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Where are Meramec caverns located?

Meramec Caverns are 65 miles, just over an hour from Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis. Signs to the caverns are well marked. I used GPS on my phone without issue. 

Meramec Caverns Address

1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080

welcome sign

Meramec Caverns tickets

Tickets can be reserved in advance online or purchased on-site. I chose to get mine online for convenience and peace of mind. Tours depart every 20-30 minutes. The ticket includes an hour-and-a-half guided tour of the caverns.
Prices$28 Adults Ages 12+
$25 Military
$25 Senior Ages 65+
$15 Children Ages 5-11
Free Infants Ages 0-4

Meramec Caverns Hours

Hours of operation at Meramec Caverns vary depending on the month and day. Here are the current hours of operation.

What temperature is it inside Meramec Caverns?

The caverns are 58 degrees (10 C) year-round. To prevent getting cold, a jacket is recommended. If you forget one, they have some for sale in the gift shop.

history display
Learn about Meremec Caverns in the history display area before your tour.

Meramec Cave Tour

Once they announce the start of the cave tour over the speaker, you line up, they take your ticket, and you gather before starting the tour. No food or drinks are allowed inside the cave, but they have a table where you can leave your items during the tour.

The paved walkways within the caverns are lit for safety. Each new section of the tour reveals new wonders within. Doors have been installed to help maintain the natural environment temperature inside the caverns.

Our tour guide was funny, knowledgeable, and clearly enjoyed his job. As I mentioned, I’ve been on some not-so-great cave tours, but I’m happy to report this was not one of them. The tour is great, and there are many amazing things to see.

How long is the Meramec Cavern Tour?

The tour lasts an hour and twenty minutes and involves walking 1 1/4 miles, including stairs and uphill walking.

meramec caverns formations
Formations within Meremec Caverns

What kinds of formations can you see at Meramec Caverns?

The limestone formations within Meramec Caverns are truly impressive and speak for themselves. They date back around 400 million years. Our tour guide pointed out different events in time that caused specific formations, which was fascinating.

Wine Table

Meramec Caverns is home to the wine table, one of the world’s rarest cave formations. Our tour guide shared how it was formed underwater and other formations in the room.

wine table formation Meramec caverns
Extremely rare wine table formation

Theatre Room Light-Show

In the theatre room, the formations are truly stunning. Once everyone has gathered in the room, they project a light show onto the formations in conjunction with the song “God Bless America” in a tribute to those who have served and are currently serving in our armed forces and as police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.

The show is quite impressive and memorable.

Meramec caverns light show
Meremec Caverns Lightshow

Meramec Caverns photos

Many photo opportunities are available during the tour. Flash photography is not allowed. With so much to take in, I only tried to do it justice with photos.

meremec caverns
meremec caverns

Meramec Caverns History

Meramec Caverns and Jessie James

According to the cave’s owner, evidence proves that Jessie James used Meramec Caverns as a hideout. The artifacts found inside the cave (at Loot Rock) were strong boxes, rifles, and shackles traceable to the train robbery at Gadshill, MO. What do you think?  

Meramec Caverns, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil War

Materials from the cave were used to manufacture gunpowder during the Civil War. Although it cannot be confirmed, the cave is rumored to have been the second-to-last stop on the Underground Railroad’s journey to freedom.

Civil War Gun Powder room Meremec Caverns
Civil War Gun Powder factory room Meremec Caverns

Who owns Meramec Caverns?

Meramec Caverns is privately owned. I was a bit surprised to learn this.

Common Questions about Meramec Cave Tours

Is there a bathroom inside the cave?

The cave doesn’t have bathrooms, but some are available before the tour.

Is the cave handicap accessible?

Meramec Caverns is not handicap accessible due to the natural terrain, steps, and narrow walkways.

What should I wear?

Given the cooler temperature, long pants and a jacket are recommended. Don’t forget comfortable, non-slip shoes; I wore my tennis shoes without any issues.

Are there bats in the cave?

Yes, although I did not see any.

Are there any areas of total darkness on the tour?

Yes, our tour guide turned off the lights at one point to show us what total darkness looks like. Hint: you can’t see anything. If you are afraid of the dark, closing your eyes will help.

Entrance to Meremec Caverns
Entrance to Meremec Caverns

Where to Stay at Meramec Caverns

The Meramec Caverns Motel

The Meramec Caverns Motel is open April 1- October 31; reservations are required. Rooms have double beds, showers, bathrooms, and televisions.

More Hotel Options

Additional hotels in Sullivan can be booked here


Only a few campers stayed during my visit the first week of April. Campsites open April 1st through October 31. There are riverfront campgrounds with trailer hookups available, barbecue pits, sheltered pavilions, and a playground area. Showers, restrooms, and a concession stand are conveniently accessible to all. Book your campsite.

Where to Eat

Meramec Caverns restaurant has daily specials from Memorial Day through Labor Day. I grabbed some quick food at the snack bar before my tour.

Other attractions at Meramec Caverns

I went in early April, and many attractions outside of cave tours had yet to open. In summer, there are many activities available.


Caveman Zipline at Meramec Caverns are for those looking for extreme adventure. The canopy adventure includes three swinging sky bridges and four zip rides varying in length from 200 to 1250 feet, reaching speeds of 50 mph! Reservations are required.

Requirement/Restriction: Participants must be at least 10 years of age, weigh at least 80lbs, and cannot exceed 250 lbs. Participants must be in good health, no recent surgeries/procedures, and cannot be pregnant. Closed-toe shoes are required.

Caveman Climbing Wall

Caveman Climbing Wall is open to anyone ages 3 and up. Take the challenge of climbing the wall! Reservations are not required

-40′ Rock Climbing Wall

-4 Levels of Difficulty

-Available to Ages 3+

-Minimum height, 37″

-Minimum weight, 35lbs. Maximum weight, 250lbs.

-Little Kids Ropes Course Minimum height, 37″

Riverboat Rides

Enjoy a relaxing, history-filled half-hour excursion on the Meramec River aboard a canopy-topped riverboat. Cavern Queen I and Cavern Queen II can each hold 25 passengers.

Open June, July, and August daily, depending on weather and river conditions. 

Jesse James Wax Museum

The Jesse James Wax Museum was closed during my visit. Artifacts belonging to Jesse and the James Family are prominently displayed at the museum, as well as witness affidavits, antiques, and a vintage gun collection valued at over $100,000 dollars.

Is the tour of Meramec Caverns worth it?

I would say it was well worth the trip. The formations, history, and experience were really worth the late addition to my itinerary. Meramec Caverns was featured on USA Today’s Bucket List of the 60 things you have to do in America before you die. Only an hour away from St. Louis, it is the perfect day trip addition to your itinerary! 

Don’t forget to check out Gateway Arch National Park as well as other National Park sites in Missouri