Dames Cave: a Fascinating Hidden Gem in Florida

If you’re an adventurer looking for a hidden gem in Florida, Dames Cave in the Withlacoochee State Forest is your must-visit destination.

Although not a tourist attraction, this cave system is a non-challenging hike that offers cool views of rock formations, wildlife, and flora and fauna.

But before you start planning your trip, keep in mind that going inside Dames Cave may not be for everyone.

tree roots from inside dames cave

If you’re claustrophobic or feel uncomfortable in enclosed spaces, then this may not be for you.

Furthermore, know that you will explore at your own risk and must be aware of your surroundings.

In this article, I’ll provide you with important tips on how to get to Dames Cave, other hiking trails and caves to explore, and answer some frequently asked questions.

Key Takeaways

  • This hidden gem is located in the Withlacoochee State Forest.
  • You will be exploring the cave at your own risk.
  • In addition to Dames Cave, there are other hiking trails and caves to explore in the Withlacoochee State Forest.
  • Please practice responsible tourism and follow the Leave No Trace principles when exploring outdoors.
dames cave in Withlacoochee State Forest.

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How to Get to Dames Cave

Getting to Dames Cave can be a bit tricky because there are no signs or markings that will lead you to the cave. To get here, you will need to drive along Lecanto Hwy in Florida, which is about 69 miles north of Tampa.

Once you are on Lecanto Hwy, keep an eye out for an unofficial sandy parking lot with trash bins located alongside the road. This is where you will park and it’s also the trailhead entrance that will take you to Dames Cave.

parking lot and entrance to dames cave
This is the unofficial parking lot area/trailhead entrance.

After parking your car, you will need to hike along the sandy trail. This hiking trail will take you straight to the four caves in this area.

It is important to mention that although there are 37 caves in the Citrus Tract area of the Withlacoochee State Forest, most of them are closed to the public.

Although the caves in this forest are not as popular as the underwater caves in Florida like Devil’s Den, it’s still quite a special place to explore.

hiking trails and tall trees in Withlacoochee State Forest

⚠️ Do not attempt to go inside the cave chamber without experience, preparation and/or are alone at the time of visiting. Explore at your own risk and use common sense.

Important Tips to Follow When Exploring Dames Cave

After around a half-mile hike along the trail, you will walk towards a big area with wire around it; this is Dames Cave.

Unfortunately, locals have vandalized the cave–hence the nickname ‘Vandal Cave‘, which is why you will see the cave covered in graffiti.

entrance to dames cave

To get inside the cave, go past the wire and go down through the cave’s opening. Make sure you are prepared with all your essentials before going inside the cave chamber.

Here are some important tips you should keep in mind to ensure your safety.

1. Bring a Headlamp or Flashlight

To enjoy exploring all the nooks and crannies of this cave, it’s crucial to have a source of light when exploring the cave.

Dames Cave is divided into different rooms, and one of the rooms has a narrow opening at the bottom.

If you plan to go through this passage, you will need a headlamp or flashlight because it is pitch black in there. Make sure to also bring extra batteries or a backup light source.

exploring the cave walls with a flashlight
👀 Check out this cave located in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Florida! #caves #caveexploring Click To Tweet

2. Wear Hiking Boots to Explore the Cave Chamber

Caves are always damp and slippery, so it is important to wear the right shoes to prevent injuries. And trust me, after hiking in Utah cost me 2 foot surgeries, I know a thing or two about what not to do.

Proper hiking boots with a good grip and ankle protection are recommended.

By all means, please don’t wear your worn sneakers or sandals to go cave exploring. Oh, you won’t believe the things I’ve seen!😅

vandal cave chamber walls

3. Don’t Go Alone

Although hiking alone can be enjoyable, cave exploring is a whole different story. Even though Dames Cave is small, still many things can go wrong.

I highly recommend bringing a hiking buddy with you even if they wait for you outside the cave. Just have someone nearby who can hear your voice from inside the cave.

4. Pay Attention to How You Feel

If you are feeling nervous or anxious, it is best not to go inside the cave chamber. Some narrow passages inside the cave are not recommended for people who suffer from claustrophobia.

Listen to your body and do what feels comfortable for you. If you can’t go inside the cave, you can see what it looks like from above.

There is a large opening that you’ll see on the trail from which you can take a peek at the inside of the cave.

dames cave view from the top

Hiking Trails and Other Caves to Explore Besides Dames Cave

If you’re looking for more caves to explore besides Dames Cave, the Citrus Tract area in Withlacoochee State Forest has a few other options.

Sick Bat Cave, Danger Cave, and Peace Cave are all easily accessible from the trail. However, it’s important to note that entering any of these caves without proper expertise can be dangerous.

If you’re inexperienced at cave exploring, It’s best to admire them from the outside and appreciate their beauty without risking your safety.

For those who want to do more hiking, there are a few options. The trails in the Citrus Tract Area have a lot of intersecting trails that can be quite confusing and it’s easy to get lost.

sitting next to a big rock on the cave floor

Therefore, please be sure to grab this trail map before you begin your hikes.

Another great option with 47 miles of paved trail, is the Withlacoochee State Trail. This trail is great for biking, hiking, and skating.

Lastly, Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area also has some good hiking trails like the Cypress Circle Trail and Wild Turkey Trace Trail.

Whether you’re looking for caves to explore or just want to enjoy a scenic hike, Citrus County has plenty to offer. Just remember to always be safe and respect the natural environment.

hiking in the citrus tract area

Is Dames Cave Open During the Week?

Yes! Dames Caves is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Is a Permit Required to Explore Dames Cave?

No permit is required to explore this cave.

entrance opening to danger cave
Danger Cave

What Should I Bring if I want to do Cave Exploring?

Bring appropriate footwear, such as sturdy hiking boots as well as a headlamp or flashlight to navigate the cave’s dark passages. It is also recommended to bring plenty of water, snacks, and a first aid kit.

Are There Guided Tours Available for Dames Cave?

Guided tours are not available for Dames Cave. However, you can explore the cave on your own or with a group of friends.

looking at danger cave in Withlacoochee State Forest

Did you know about the cave systems in Florida? Let me know in the comments!

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exploring Dames Cave in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Florida
Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is one 1/2 of the Next Stop Adventures dynamic duo with 15+ years of hiking experience and adventure travel. As a PADI-certified Scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Spain.

18 thoughts on “Dames Cave: a Fascinating Hidden Gem in Florida”

  1. I love the way the roots of that tree are winding down into the mouth of the cave, it’s like a window into an underground world we’d never get to see otherwise. From the first picture it almost looks like the ground just collapsed one day and fell in, like a sinkhole. I’d be interested in the geology of this area!

  2. You make a really good point about bringing a hiking buddy and being extra careful in the caves! I LOVE this kind of thing, but as they are so slippy; Caves are one of the mini adventures that I prefer not to do alone!

    I love your photos, but it is a bit of a shame about all the graffiti.

    • Yeah, I would never do cave exploring alone. The graffiti really made me feel mad and sad. I just don’t know why people think it’s necessary to vandalize nature like that. It really is a shame.

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