Dunbar Cave State Natural Area
Parks | Exit 4
Dunbar Cave State Park is a day-use park and a local favorite for walks along the peaceful trails and views of tranquil Swan Lake. Enjoy hiking, picnicking, bird & wildlife viewing, and guided cave tours during summer months.
At over eight miles in length, Dunbar Cave is one of the largest caves in the area. The 15-acre lake is fed by the cold, clear stream that flows from the mouth of the cave.
The 110-acre park is honeycombed by Dunbar Cave and numerous sinkholes. The cave has historical, natural, archaeological and geological significance. Excavations revealed that this cave has been used by man for thousands of years, drawn by its constant stream flow and natural air conditioning. These early inhabitants left drawings on the cave walls, perhaps as part of religious ceremonies.
Thomas Dunbar and his family settled the land containing the cave in 1784. Dunbar thought that he had title to the land, but due to incorrect paperwork he was never actually the legal owner The first known owner, Robert Nelson, claimed the land in 1792. Mr. Dunbar and his family were ejected from the land (Dunbar immediately purchased the land next to the cave property and lived there until his death in 1826). The cave retained Dunbar's name as he was the first settler to live there.
The entrance to Dunbar Cave is 58 degrees year-round which was a popular attraction during the summer months. After the Civil War, the first resort was built in the area surrounding Dunbar Cave. By the 1930s, the cave became a hotspot for local bands and other entertainment. In 1948, country music legend Roy Acuff bought the property and staged his Saturday Night Radio Dance Broadcast from the site. The cave's popularity declined in the 1950s when indoor air-conditioning became common in households. In 1973, Governor Winfield Dunn purchased the property and designated it a state natural area.
A variety of interpretive programs are available year-round. All park trails, with varying degrees of difficulty, begin and end at the visitor center. Cave tours are offered four times daily, Wednesday - Sunday, May through August.
Information and Reference | TN State Parks
Hours of Operation: 8am-Sunset