Skip to Content

Howe Caverns, New York: The Best Kept Spelunking Secret in the State

Howe Caverns, New York: The Best Kept Spelunking Secret in the State

Last Updated on May 19, 2023

When most people think of New York, they may conjure up mental images of towering skyscrapers, bright city lights, or incessant horn-honking taxis. While New York City is certainly a bucket-list-worthy travel destination, there are plenty of other precious travel gems to pluck from the Empire State.

For example, a mere 138 miles from the Big Apple can lead you into a magical subterranean world of caverns, caves, and cool underground cavities just aching for you to explore. This unique and special hot spot known as Howe Caverns is one of the best-kept secrets in New York state and worthy of touring if you find yourself in the area. 

Howe Caverns

The Unusual Legend of the Discovery of Howe Caverns, New York

The distinctive and alluring charm of Howe Caverns begins with its discovery, which happened in 1842.  The caverns are beneath an expanse of land that belonged to a farmer and dairy cow owner by the name of Lester Howe.  Although he is credited for the discovery of the caves buried 156 feet below ground, it was his cow Millicent that deserves the credit for the find.

As the most popular legend goes, Lester Howe started observing peculiar behavior from his favorite cow Millicent and his other dairy cows during a sweltering hot streak of days. His cows began gathering upon a portion of the valley Lester owned east of the Cobleskill region. When he noticed his cows were consistently pasturing around this odd spot in the scorching heat, Lester and his wife Lucinda got curious and started to investigate.

While encroaching closer to the site where the cows convened, they detected a drastic drop in temperature. Apparently, the cows were migrating to this spot because the constant, cool 52-degree breezes wafting from the crevasse in the earth were like nature’s air conditioning for the overheated cows. Upon further investigation, Howe and his wife came upon the source of these cool air emissions that is now known as “Blowing Rock” which is the original opening to the cave.  From that day on, Howe’s curiosity motivated him to explore and uncover one of the most eye-popping caverns located in the Northeast.


Need-to-Know Tips When Visiting Howe Caverns

Now that you know a bit about the legend of Howe Caverns in New York, let’s dive into ways you can truly enjoy this one-of-a-kind spelunking experience. Here are a few tips for relishing your trip to Schoharie County, NY, and explore all this destination has to offer.

How to Get There: Howe Caverns is a scant 169-mile (just over 3 hours) jaunt by car from central NYC, or about 45 minutes (43 miles) by car from Albany. If you’re traveling from Syracuse, it’s about 2 hours (113 miles) by car.

What to Expect: When you roll up to the sprawling beauty of the Howe estate on Discovery Drive (how cool is that?!) you can expect to be met with expansive, emerald green views and bucolic scenes, and that’s just top-side! When you take your tour within the belly of the caverns, you will be dazzled by sunken treasures of gorgeous, statuesque stalactite formations and spacious 60-foot passageways within the caves. The calcite and stone figurations are deftly lit, featuring mind-blowing contortions carved into the subterranean scene. You will be awestruck by the underground majesty in your midst and captured by the beauty this cavernous experience holds for you and/or your family.

What to Do There: You owe it to yourself to take advantage of the variety of tours offered by the Howe Cavern estate. Indulge in the lantern tour in which you are submerged in a winding womb of underground rivers within the caverns illuminated only by the light of a lantern – just as Lester Howe did back in the 1800s!  This is a guided tour that is certain to enchant your vacation memories for years to come. Howe Caverns also offers other excursions such as walking tours, social events, and they even have an immersive escape room experience for the more entertainment-focused tourist.

Closing Thoughts About Howe Caverns as Your Next Best Travel Destination

While it’s true, spelunking (cave exploring) might not be everybody’s slice of pie, Howe Caverns is special in that it offers a user-friendly way to experience caves in a low-stress, magical way that will leave an impression on you and your travel companions for years to come. Howe Caverns is sure to satiate your craving for a remarkable travel adventure that is off the beaten path in New York state.

Howe Cavern Lodge

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Howe Caverns by Scott Johnson; (2) Howe Caverns by Joe Pitha;Howe Caverns Lodge by Neil R