Renowned across the entire Eastern Woodlands for its prehistoric history, Dunbar Cave State Park is a must-see destination for anyone interested in caves, petroglyphs, or prehistoric life. Take a tour of the cave, view prehistoric petroglyphs, and hike on trails around Swan Lake to spot an abundance of wildlife and birds.
Located on 144 acres in Clarksville, TN, Dunbar Cave holds a long and rich history in its occupation and use by a variety of groups over thousands of years. A sacred site for prehistoric Mississippian groups since the 14th century, the cave itself offers much to explore in its cave drawings and awe-striking scenery.
The area surrounding the cave also has a history of private land use by individuals and businesses. The area functioned as a site of a resort for much of the 20th century In 1973, the cave and surrounding area was designated as a state park. Today, the park offers cave tours, multiple trails, a nearby lake, and optimal bird watching opportunities.
Dunbar Cave is the park’s primary attraction, and for good reason. The cave’s features and fascinating history attracts visitors from all over the state and region. Dunbar cave itself stretches 8 miles inward, holding a rich past of occupation and use.
The cave has been occupied by humans for thousands of years for its good source of shelter and constant stream flow. Dunbar cave was a sacred site for Mississippian indigenous societies whose records of occupation there date as far back as 1350 AD. These groups believed the cave to be a part of the Underworld and marked its walls with charcoal drawings and carvings of religious iconography.
These religious symbols and other cave drawings can still be viewed in the cave today. Cave tours are available daily from May to September, giving visitors the opportunity to explore Dunbar Cave and view these incredible prehistoric petroglyphs.
Cave tours fill up fast; book your reservation online and plan ahead for the best experience.
After you’ve toured Dunbar Cave and witnessed its relics from thousands of years of history, head to nearby trails by Swan Lake for a stroll.
There are three short trails in the park that provide opportunities for wildlife and bird sightings. All trails follow the edge of the lake and meander into the nearby forest, giving hikers a few different sceneries to view during their trek.
- Recovery Loop is a 2 mile, moderate trail that is great for spotting deer, fox, turkey, and a mix of waterfowl and songbird species as the loop follows the edge of Swan Lake before turning into the forest.
- Short Loop is a 1 mile loop that follows part of the Recovery Loop before cutting it off to form a shorter loop. This trail is a great option for those looking to hike a shorter version of the Recovery Loop.
- Lake Trail is .7 miles and is classified as an easy trail. The trail is paved and circles around the edge of Swan Lake, giving hikers good opportunities to spot aquatic life and waterfowl.
Visit the park in spring and fall months for the best birding. Visitors can download checklists on the park’s website to keep track of species of bird they see during their visit, along with wildflower and tree species at the park.