Awesome hike to Florida's oldest, most secluded caves. Backpack and explore underground into a huge cave system!

28.709378°, -82.451328°

Dames Cave (aka Vandal Cave) are mostly locally known, so finding the trail head is the hardest thing to do. Use the GPS Coordinates above ^ and it'll bring you exactly to the trail's parking. 

The caves themselves are in the Withlacoochee State Forest, just north of Tampa/ Clearwater. They are right off of Citrusway/ S Lecanto Hwy (Street #491). There is no sign marking the trail, but you will see a small parking lot with cement posts, a trashcan and a couple cars parked. Since it is not very well known, parking here is free. Which is honestly a great bonus for explorers. 

This hike is very well kept and is also on a sand trail, which makes it very comfortable to walk down. It is also a very short hike to get to the main attraction which is the cave. About half a mile in from the trail head you will get to an open area with a gauge, fat wire and a huge opening about 15 feet deep that you can look down into or take awesome photographs of. This is Dames Cave.

All the caves look to be connected and there is a natural bridge letting you walk by the huge holes in the Earth. Once you see the immensity of it all and decide that you want to see underground, a small side cave on the right let's you climb down a couple feet underneath safely. The opening is mostly big rocks and roots of the tree that can be a little slippery but work very well as steps. 

This is the most exciting part of the adventure! Once you get inside of the cave, there is a living-room sized area with amazing rock formations and light openings. You can see plants growing and roots on the walls. It is damp but the cool air feels good, specially in the summer. This is a great place to stop and take it all in. 

Since the trail is mostly locally known you basically have the freedom to relax , or keep hiking, or keep exploring. That's the best part about this adventure. 

If you want to keep exploring, there are smaller caves all branching out in the same area that you can easily climb into or simply admire. All depends on the level of adventure/experience you have.

If you want to keep hiking, Trail 22 is part of the Citrus Trail system of the Withlacoochee State Forest. You can continue down the sand trail until you get to a crossing intersection with a yellow gate that connects you to trail 15, this is all just about a mile from the parking. If you want to hike about another mile further, you will connect with trail 13. These trails all connect very smoothly and are mostly sand terrain. 

Of course, if you want to just relax and love the moment, you can set up basically anywhere and have some food, take photographs and  enjoy the caves.

We did not encounter any wild animals. Just spiders on the side of the trails. 

The parking are is pictured so you can find it easier!

Pack List

  • Comfortable shoes
  • First Aid kit (Be prepared!)
  • Water 
  • Lunch
  • Camera (Wide- Angle lens to get the whole cave!)
  • Bug Repellent
  • Adventurous Spirit
Show More
RT Distance 1 Miles
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

A secluded spot the locals love

I grew up in Brooksville & there are few people out of town that know about this spot. It’s secluded and peaceful and full of shaded spots to stop and relax. You may meet some locals along the way - don’t be afraid to ask what else is nearby! Dogs are welcome, but be sure to check them for ticks afterward (and yourself). The caves are cool and fun to explore. Bring a flashlight to get the most out of it. A nice place to hike and take photographs.

Awesome Hike!

This place is quiet and secluded. Not many people know or go there.

Thanks

Absolutely Spot on GPS ping. So easy to find. Awesome!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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