Spirit Mountain Cave

Useful Information

Location: On Spirit Mountain, west of Cody. Follow Yellowstone Hwy to the west. Turn left onto Spirit Mountain Road, follow this road uphill for 4 km, at the blue gate (sign) follow the trail for 300 m.
Open: Closed by iron bar gate, keys and permit from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Cody Field Office.
Office hours all year Mon-Fri 7:45-16:30.
Fee: Deposit USD 20.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=1,600 m.
Guided tours: self guided. V=700/a [2020]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: requires climbing and crawling
Bibliography: Richard Rhinehart (2011): Sulfur Galleries: The Historic Caves of Wyoming's Shoshone Canyon, 2011 NSS Convention, Glenwood Springs, Colrado, July, 2011. Bookonline pdf
Phil Roberts (2012): Cody’s Cave: National Monuments and the Politics of Public Lands in the 20th Century West, Laramie, Wyo.: Skyline West, 2012.
Address: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Cody Field Office, 1002 Blackburn Street, Cody, WV 82414, Tel: +1-307-578-5900. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1908 discovered by Ned Frost and named Frost Cave.
1909 renamed Shoshone Caverns and declared a National Monument by President William Taft.
1916 management handed over to National Park Service and Yellowstone National Park officials.
1935 first approach to commercialize the cave fails because of National Monument status.
1954 monument designation rescinded by the National Park Review Panel, cave handed over to the city of Cody.
1957 developed, renamed Spirit Mountain Cave, and opened as a show cave by Wyoming Gov. Milward Simpson.
1966 show cave closed.
1970s after the closure the cave was vandalized.
1978 Bureau of Land Management takes over the cave, gate installed.
1984 Gate constructed.
2012 cave temporarily closed due to a rockfall.


Spirit Mountain Cave is a so-called beginner cave, a wild cave which does not require technical skills and is frequented by cave trekkers. It is located on Cedar Mountain overlooking the resort city, west of Cody. The cave is developed on three levels and mostly narrow. Vertical gear is not necessary, but the levels are connected by vertical shafts and handlines are highly recommended to climb them.

The cave was discovered in the early 20th century by Ned Frost while hunting mountain lions. One of his dogs chased a catamount into the cave entrance, when he followed he discovered the cave. The cave was named Frost Cave, after the discoverer.

At this time William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, often posed with tourists at the mouth of the cave. He convinced President William Taft to declare it a National Monument. The cave was renamed Shoshone Caverns.

In order to commercialize the cave, the monument designation first had to be rescinded. This happened in 1954 and the cave was handed over to the city of Cody who started the development. The cave was renamed Spirit Mountain Cave after Cedar Mountain, the place where it is located, which is also known as Spirit Mountain. In 1957 the cave was opened to the public, inaugurated by Wyoming Gov. Milward Simpson. It had trails, concrete steps and electric light, some remains of the trails can still be seen. The road to the cave entrance is also a result of this development. But the cave was never a success, it was to far away and the road too narrow and difficult. Changing the management did not solve the problem and finally the cave was closed in 1966, after only 9 years of operation.

The cave has interesting speleothems, which are a result of its formation. The rocks of Spirit Mountain are partly of volcanic origin and there is still some volcanic heat. The ground water is heated and contains sulfur, which is transformed into sulfuric acid, which speeds up cave formation. Many caves in the area contain sulfur related gasses, many of them are poisonous, so some caves were closed by concrete walls. The minerals in the cave are often gypsum, a result of the combination of calcium carbonate (the limestone) with sulfur. Spirit Mountain Cave is said to contain fluorescent cave minerals.