Central Florida is home to a vast number of forests and springs to explore, and within the Withlacoochee State Forest in Citrus County – you’ll find another natural gem: the Dames Caves.
Exploring the Dames Caves Area
While a total of 37 caves have been discovered with many of them in the Citrus Tract, four have been named and mapped: Danger Cave, Dames/Vandal Cave, Peace Cave, and Sick Bat Cave (home to a large population of bats, and protected by steel cage)
These types of caves are described as “karst caves”
According to National Geographic, karst is “a type of landscape made of limestone, dolomite, and gypsum rocks that slowly dissolve in the presence of water with a slightly acidic tinge”
Geologically, the caves are some of the oldest in Florida and geologists believe that they were once probably interconnected
Directions to Dames Caves
The Dames Caves are a bit of a hidden gem, so finding the parking and trailhead can be a bit tricky.
To best locate the parking area, search Google Maps for coordinates 28.709378°, -82.451328°
Dames Caves Parking
Parking is free but at your own risk, as it is unattended and unmarked.
At the front of the parking area, you will see several cement posts marking the parking and entry to the trail system.
Hike Dames Caves with us
Check out some of our favorite moments from our hike to Dames Cave in the Withlacoochee State Forest!
We brought both of our dogs on the hike, and our Husky puppy (Aska) learned how to hang out of the truck window, too!
The trail is super dog friendly, and even our Yorkie (Pita) had fun navigating it!
Click on our Tiktok to check it all out!
Exploring Dames Caves
From the parking area, you will walk through the gate and follow the trail East for about a half-mile – until you come to a clearing where you will see the Dames Cave. The opening to this cave is actually quite large, due to an ancient roof collapse – however, part of it is still connected, creating a natural bridge across the top.
The opening to Dames Cave is formed by rocks and tree roots that make some fairly natural steps. Once inside the cave, you’ll see why it’s earned the nickname Vandal Cave as it’s been graffitied throughout the years. A small side cave is accessible and will connect you to the inner cave system that ranges in the level of difficulty.
Some tips to help you navigate to the other three caves:
Just to the south of Dames Cave is Sick Bat Cave
Danger Cave is to the East, where the trail crosses Citrus Loop trail “D”
Peace Cave is North of Dames Cave, where you will see peace signs painted on a nearby tree
Dames Cave is the most popular of the four to explore, due to the pretty spacious chambers that make it easier to navigate.
Many of the other passages are a bit trickier. With tight spaces and narrow paths, it’s not unheard of that hikers could become trapped and require rescue. Hike what you know, be safe, and be smart.
With that being said, you don’t need to be an avid explorer to enjoy a trip to the Dames Cave area. In addition to seeing some incredible sights from above, the trail itself is very smooth with a sandy terrain and minimal incline.
Trail 22 is part of the Citrus Trail system in the Withlacoochee State Forest, making it easy to connect additional trails if you want to keep hiking.
Leave no Trace: Caring for Dames Caves
Before we let you go, a little PSA.
On the day of our visit, the trail was really well kept – but there was some trash in the parking area.
These types of natural gems deserve our love and care – leave no trace. ✌︎
Dames Caves Rules
Open sunrise to sunset
Dogs allowed, but must be leashed
No alcohol allowed
Camping is limited to marked primitive sites throughout the forest and paid camping nearby
Hiking and Cave Exploration Gear to Consider Bringing
Explore more of Florida
Our friends Sarah and Jeremy from
Live Today Like it Matters share their trip to Homosassa Springs.
Check out this fun and unique location that would make a great day trip from the Dames Cave Area!