You know you’re in for an interesting time when the parking lot is ‘unofficial’. That’s the case when heading to Dames Cave and Peace Cave in Withlacoochee State Forest Citrus Tract. You can literally search for ‘Dames Cave Unofficial Parking’ for directions on how to get there. If you use this parking lot be sure to get there early, it isn’t very big. It’s well worth the trip though, there aren’t many caves in Florida to explore.
The path is actually well marked (mostly) and an easy walk. Dames Cave has a large opening and is easy to get in and out of as long as you don’t mind some steep stepping up and down. Once you’re in there is a small opening in the back where I was told people can climb into, but you’d have to lay down and wiggle in and I don’t know what’s on the other side, so I didn’t even contemplate it.
Further on is Peace Cave, which was much smaller but the path to it is great so it’s well worth the walk. There’s more than one way to get to it, but following the path across from Dames Cave is the easiest. or you can do what we did, think you are on an old path, and just trek through the woods. I do not recommend.
What really makes this area great is the fact that there are a lot of paths splitting off from the main trail. They aren’t on the map but some of them are well marked with paint stripes. We ran into another cave off the side of trail 22 that I didn’t see on the map that was pretty cool as well. I think if we spent the day we may run into more caves as well.
We intend to go back with some water and snacks and make a day of hiking this area, it’s a little different from the average woods in Florida because the ground on some of the paths is covered in pine needles and you can see the ground under the trees instead of it being overgrown with Saw Palmetto palms. There are quite a few more interesting features that we didn’t get to that will require coming back to this trail for further exploration. I’d also like to go prepared to go into some of the caves – I wasn’t sure what to expect when we went and wasn’t prepared to go safely exploring in them. When I do I’ll update this article with a bit more information on what it’s like in the actual caves.
One note of caution – if you go hiking here be sure to use bug spray and don’t forget to check for ticks afterward. That’s always a good idea when trekking through woodsy areas, but this place seems especially prone to them.
If you’ve been down in the caves or other caves in Florida I’d love to hear from you!
Here’s what you need to know to play tourist:
10701 S Lecanto Hwy
Lecanto, FL 33602