Via lantern tours, even lifelong Chattanoogans can see Ruby Falls in a new light

Emily Crisman goes on the Lantern Tour at Ruby Falls.

I can barely remember visiting Ruby Falls as a child, and after being asked by a visitor if a trip down the cave was worth their while, I was a little ashamed to admit that, despite a lifetime in Chattanooga, I could provide no honest advice. So I signed up for the lantern tour, a more intimate version of the typical tour that begins an hour after the official 8 p.m. closing time.

I'm now proud to say I can confidently recommend at least this particular experience at Ruby Falls, the nation's tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to to public, located more than 1,000 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain.

Without the artificial lighting that normally illuminates the cave's unique formations along the less than half-mile route to the falls, the lantern tour feels a bit closer to the experience Leo Lambert must have had when exploring the cave for the first time, before it became the well-known tourist attraction visited by thousands each year.