Winter. Lifeless lawns, leafless trees and colorless shrubs only add to the dreary landscape, and it seems inevitable that you’ll come down with a case of the winter blues. The good news is I have the perfect cure for the blues and that other dreaded ailment, cabin fever. The prescription calls for a short drive toward Harrisburg, a sense of adventure and a thriving ecosystem hidden deep below the frozen surface called Indian Echo Caverns. Did I mention the temperature at this getaway is 52 degrees year-round?
Indian Echo Caverns is a beautiful and historic show cave located in Derry Township near Hummelstown. While it opened to the public in 1929, its geological history dates back more than 400 million years, when rushing water eroded the area’s limestone, thus creating the caverns.
When you arrive, you’ll need to head into the gift shop and purchase your tickets for the 45-minute cavern tour. Fortunately, the gift shop, playground, petting zoo and other activities will help keep everyone occupied until it’s your turn to explore the cave.
The only strenuous portion of the tour is at the beginning (and the end), as there are 71 steps to negotiate between the gift shop and the cavern’s entrance along Swatara Creek. As you enter the cavern, your guide will dive into details. You’ll get a great lesson on the different geological formations found within the caverns. This cavern has a number of spectacular features all its own, and the guides are great at pointing them out and providing quirky stories about each. They’ll also share the story of the mystery box that was found in the caverns in 1919, as well as the tale of William Wilson, the hermit who lived in the caverns for 19 years.
The next stop is the massive “Indian Ballroom”. This is the largest “room” in the caverns, and it sits at the intersection of the Eastern and Northern passages. At the end of the Eastern Passage, you’ll be enveloped by “total darkness” and experience what it must have felt like to be one of the early explorers before the lights were added.
From there, you’ll head back to the Indian Ballroom and into the Northern Passage. This is my favorite section of the caverns because of the water pools and the gorgeous “Wedding Chapel” that is located at the end of that passage. (Yes, weddings are held there.)
The caverns are open year-round (10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, expanding to 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day). Address is 368 Middletown Rd., Hummelstown, PA 17036. For more information, call 717-566-8131 or visit Facebook.