Cave People, hear ye! Florida has caves! While a good portion of Florida caves are part of the aquifer system (underwater caves requiring scuba skills), there are a number of hidden dry cave gems. I’ll be updating this blog with every new one I experience, but Dames was my first Florida cave, and I finally took my DSLR this time.
The Dames Cave system includes Danger Cave, Sick Bat Cave and Peace Cave, all of which can be accessed from the same trail here. Follow us in and take note of directions. If you’re an adventurer looking for a self-guided Adventureland outside of Disney, this blog will win your internet today.
Getting to Dames Cave
Dames is about an hour and 45 minutes northwest from Orlando, about an hour and a half north of Tampa.
The Easy Way: Put this lat/long into your GPS: 28.709378°, -82.451328°. This will take you to the trailhead and easy parking just off State Highway 491 / S. Lecanto Highway. There’s a yellow gate betwixt cement posts which leads you to a sandy half-mile path which will take you directly to the cave entrance. It’s an easy hike, but remember this isn’t a commercial attraction, so no restrooms or other conveniences. Stop by the nearest gas station before you get there. You’ll know the cave when you see a clearing in the woods and a giant hole in the ground surrounded by cable and posts, which is your only warning there’s a giant hole in the ground.
The Adventurer’s Route: If you put “Dames Cave, Lecanto, FL” into Google Maps, it will not take you to the trail head mentioned above. It will take you what I call the Adventurer’s Route, which is a hilly, sandy, off-road entrance to the same trail mentioned above, but from the opposite direction, approaching the cave from the rear, on which you’ll encounter the smaller Danger Cave and Sick Bat Cave first. I did this drive in a Mazda 3, so you do not need a jeep to have this kind of fun (or fear), but you may need to select some flatter turn-offs versus the ones more suitable for ATVs.
The hike is pleasant and flat. Best in winter, cuz: Florida. Bring bug spray! Reaching Dames entrance, you’ll see this amazing tree hugging the cave with its roots. Go around to the right of this and you’ll find a beautiful network of roots creating a steep staircase down into the cave. We did this with my little nephew here, who did great being careful and climbing slowly, flanked by two adults.Looking up from down. His face says perfectly how awesome this cave is. Capturing the aura of caves is quite difficult. You have to be there! Looking down from up. This vine wasn’t here earlier, but I hope it lasts! *Indy theme* “It’s so hard to capture everything I’m feeling and seeing in here!” Absolutely right, sis! Head further in, duck through an entrance, and you’ll find yourself needing a flashlight, but able to stand up in this half-bedroom sized cave. Cave magic. I honestly don’t know what he was feelin’ here. Near the duck-and-enter cave is a tiny one my skinny six year old had to lay down to crawl into. He discovered it was about the same size inside as the previous one. This is our Goonies shot, thanks to a fellow caver. Goonies never say die! …and will continue to find caves to document and explore.