Up until the late 1920’s, local farmers would come by the exposed limestone rocks at the base of the portion of Raccoon Mountain known as Mount Aetna. There they would sit and relax on hot afternoons as they enjoyed the cool air which would blow out of the cracks in the limestone rocks.
Finally, in late 1929, they invited Leo Lambert, a famed local caver who discovered Ruby Falls the year before, to explore the area for a cave. After crawling through a small opening in a horizontal crack, Mr. Lambert found a pristine cave which appealed to his love of caves. He decided to open it as a tourist attraction and spent the next several years working on trails around the Crystal Palace Room. He named this beautiful cave “Tennessee Caverns” and opened it to the public on June 28, 1931.
The original tour, now known as the Lambert Tour, circled the Crystal Palace Room which was, at that time, the largest room in the cave. Some twenty years after its opening, the Smith Brothers were managing the cave and discovered a small hole just off the Crystal Palace Room. It is said that it was so tight that they had to exhale so they could squeeze through the tiny opening. Less than twenty feet later, they found the passage opening into a larger room and continued their discoveries. Eventually, they were able to enlarge the tour to include these newly discovered areas. Today this tour is known as The Crystal Palace Tour. To date, we have found and mapped over 5 1/2 miles of passageways with new discoveries still being made. We are also the nations top 8 rated cave!
Over the years, the name of the cave was changed from Tennessee Caverns to Crystal City Caves and eventually to its current name – Raccoon Mountain Caverns in the early 1970’s.