After a hike up a steep stairway, we follow the macadam path to the movie house and take our seats. The short, informative clip provides a basic understanding about how caves develop over millions of years. As soon as the movie ends, we exit through a side door into the cavern.
Jackie, our guide, points out the Blue Ridge fault line running through the cave and explains how tectonic activity pushed fractured slabs of rock almost vertical. The large crevices in the limestone above us allowed water to seep through the rocks creating a carbonic acid that helped dissolve the limestone, creating the cavern.
Licking our lips, we feast our eyes upon the "Upside-Down Ice Cream Cone" Mother Nature has made. The melted ice cream blends three flavors together - green mint, vanilla, and chocolate. Geologists estimate the formations age to be approximately 84,000 years old.
On our way to the next room, we pass formations that look delicious enough to eat. Long thin sheets of caramel-colored taffy (cave ribbons), orange-glazed carrots (stalactites), shiny green beans (mossy stalagmites), and flaky biscuits (draperies) decorate the corridor.
As we enter the "Crystal Ballroom", thousands of sparkling deep purple and rich plum six-sided crystals catch my eye. Clumped together, this mass of dazzling jewels looks awesome. Other clear crystals glisten like diamonds, but made of calcite, they dissolve quickly in water.
Long ago on hot summer nights, the ballroom played host to hoe-downs with live bands. Afterwards, guests slept in the historic inn located on the grounds. The ballroom has held two baptisms and three weddings. The last wedding, between two employees of the cavern, took place on Halloween in 1993.
Just inside the "Cathedral Chamber" I glance to the left and see long, shiny streaks if rich orange and dark gold minerals cascading down the wall. The stunning streaks gleam with thousands of twinkling prisms and green dots created by glimmering crystals and moss. This magnificent display takes my breath away.
Meandering paths and stairways fill this gorgeous chamber. After climbing one staircase, we toss coins in the dry wishing barrel below. Scattered coins lying around the wooden barrel tell me I’m not the only one who missed. From here, we cross over a bridge and pass different size stalagmites that remind me of nesting dolls, one fitting inside the other until they are all stacked inside the largest one. In the back of this enormous room, we climb up steep cement steps reaching a lookout platform almost at the cavern ceiling. Stalactites above us look like inverted mountain ranges capped with snow and pure white "cave ribbons" wave down the wall behind us.
Following a walkway back toward the front of the cavern, we pass by the top of a large drop rock that fell thousand of years earlier. The rock, now covered in flowstone, looks like orange sherbet dripping with thick white icing.
Crystal Cave was discovered in 1871 and is the oldest show cave still offering tours in Pennsylvania. In the early years, visitors would arrive by stagecoach and tallow candles and oil lamps provided light for the cavern tours.
Purchase tickets in the gift shop. Tours last about 45 minutes in the 54-degree cave. During the summer months, Crystal Cave has an eighteen-hole miniature golf course, ice cream shop, gem panning, nature tail, picnic area, and luncheonette.
Crystal Cave is located in Berks County near Kutztown. From interstate 78, take Route 222 to Lenhartsville (Exit 54A). Then take Route 143 to Virginville. Follow the black and yellow arrows to Crystal Cave Road. The cave is open March through November from 9am-5pm. During the summer months it is open until 6 or 7pm, depending on the day of the week. The cave is closed December through February.
Crystal Cave: (610) 683-6755 or Crystal Cave
Berks County Visitors Information:
(800) 443-6610 or Berks County Visitors Information
Lehigh Valley Visitor Information:
(800) 747-0561 or Lehigh Valley Visitor Information