Youth Groups

Cave exploring is becoming increasingly popular as an activity for young people. The challenge and excitement of the underground world attract Scout Troops, high school clubs, church groups and others.

In spite of the fact that most cave features are made of rock, they are, in reality, fragile. Once they are gone or damaged they can never be recovered, nor can they be replaced with anything else. Every cave and its contents took tens or even hundreds of thousands of years to form, and it can all be disfigured or completely destroyed in one moment of carelessness.

In some areas, however, heavy caver traffic has led to the destruction of cave formations and cavedwelling animals. Landowners have refused permission to enter their caves because of rude and thoughtless actions of some cavers. Serious or fatal accidents have occurred when inexperienced, poorly prepared groups of cavers have failed to observe safety rules.

Philadelphia Grotto, as a Chapter of the National Speleological Society, promotes safe and ethical caving for Youth Groups within our Youth Group Expedition Guidelines. Please read and understand it before contacting the Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Liaison.

The National Speleological Society Youth Group Committee web site has information that is useful for both groups and cavers. Please visit it and check the links for more information on Youth Group Caving.

Commercial Caves of Pennsylvania
Crystal Cave
Indian Caverns
Indian Echo Caverns
Laurel Caverns
Lincoln Caverns
Penn’s Cave
Lost River Caverns

Other Youth Group Friendly Dark Caving Tours
Laurel Caverns
ACE Adventure
Mammoth Cave
Carlsbad Caverns
Organ Cave
Lost World Caverns

Philadelphia Grotto and the National Speleological Society (NSS) may be able to help youth groups with their caving activity and program. But, please remember that Philadelphia Grotto will not give out the location of any wild cave, so please don’t ask. Please feel free to ask any general youth group caving questions to a panel of national experts on the NSS Youth Group Discussion Board.

Philadelphia Grotto can also help you find resources, such as Project Underground, that you can use to educate your youth group yourself. Project Underground is a program designed to educate children about caves and caving. It can be adapted for any age and can be used for anything from simple hands on workshop for youth groups to a portion of a school curriculum.

Also, please feel free to contact the Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Liaison for more specific information on Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Caving.

Youth Group Expedition Guidelines

  1. Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Expedition is defined as a caving activity guided by members of the Philadelphia Grotto for an organized group whose beneficiary members are under the age of 21 years of age and not members of the Philadelphia Grotto. The Expedition Leader is the Philadelphia Grotto member leading the Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Expedition.
  2. Youth Group Leaders must have, have read, understand, abide by, and be able to present to the Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Liaison all guidelines and policies of their organization.
  3. A Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Expedition is not a novice cave tour. All members of the expedition should have some caving experience as defined.
    • All Youth Group members wanting a wild cave tour with Philadelphia Grotto should visit at least one commercial cave as their first visit to a cave.
    • All Youth Group members wanting a wild cave tour with Philadelphia Grotto should visit a privately owned or commercial dark cave tour.
    • All members of the Youth Group Expedition should be at lease 14 years of age at the time of the expedition.
    • The number of Youth Group Members should not exceed a total of 10 in-cave participants for each expedition.
  4. Members of any Philadelphia Youth Group Expedition shall be members in good standing of the youth group organization or The Philadelphia Grotto.
  5. All members of the Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Expedition must follow all directions given by the Expedition leader. All members of the Youth Group must follow all directions given by any member of the Philadelphia Grotto. Youth Group Leaders are responsible and held liable for the actions and behavior of all their group members.
  6. The Youth Group Leader is responsible for and will give to the Expedition Leader all wavers, releases, and permits prior to entering the cave property.
  7. The Philadelphia Grotto Youth Group Liaison or Expedition Leader reserves the right and responsibility to terminate any activity at any point due to their own determination.
  8. The Youth Group Liaison or Expedition leader reserves the right to change the location of the expedition at any time.
  9. The Youth Group Leader is responsible for the health and safety of their members and can terminate the expedition at any point due to their own determination.
  10. Philadelphia Grotto will accept all requests for a Youth Group Cave Expedition, but is not obligated to take any youth group into a cave or give a presentation to any youth group.
  11. Philadelphia Grotto will generally run six scheduled Youth Group Expedition within one fiscal year. Usually one expedition in each month of February, May, June, July, August, and November. To alow as many different groups to cave with us as possible, please try to limit your group to one expedition every two years. You may contact the Youth Group Liaison up to one year in advance of your planned expedition.

Contacting Philadelphia Grotto for the purpose of a Youth Group Caving Expedition

  • First step for a Youth Group Leader is to contact, preferably by e-mail, the Youth Group Liaison. An open date provided and if agreed upon by the Youth Group Liaison and the Youth Group Leader, a tentative date will be established.
  • Then next step the Youth Group Leader should arrange an in-person meeting with the Youth Group Liaison and/or Philadelphia Grotto Board of Directors to seek approval for a scheduled expedition and to continue the planing of the expedition.
  • Expedition leader will arrange for a meeting with all the members of the Youth Group who will be in the Expedition. Attendance of this meeting by the members of the Youth Group attending the Expedition is mandatory. The Leader may require all personal gear be present to check and approve.

Safety First!
Disclaimer: Caving is an inherently hazardous activity, with bruises and twisted ankles being common injuries. Broken bones, concussions, entrapment, disabling injuries, and deaths have been known to occur during caving trips. This information is not a substitute for instruction, experience, or personal responsibility.
Caving can be physically and emotionally demanding and stressful. It is important that you are prepared, fit, properly equipped, sober, and healthy.

We strongly recommend that beginners cave with and be led by experienced, knowledgeable cavers. Cavers need to understand their personal skill level and the difficulty of the cave being visited — it is your responsibility to not exceed your abilities and skill levels. Inform your trip leader and companions of any situations or conditions that may limit your abilities and capabilities.

Average cave temperatures are near 55 degrees with humidity of 100%. Dressing in layers of synthetic insulating clothing can help protect cavers from the constant hazard of hypothermia.

Caving Conservation

Caves are very fragile, it is illegal to damage or remove formations or anything else from the inside of a cave. Formations will not grow back for thousands of years. Many animals that you may see in a cave are also protected by law and should not be disturbed.

Most caves do not clean themselves, trash, paint, human waste, food crumbs will all remain in a cave for a very long time and impact the cave environment. Always pack out everything you take into the cave.

All members of the Youth Group Expedition must have:
Helmet – Must be UIAA approved for climbing. Philadelphia Grotto may be able to loan this item.
Helmet mounted light source – This is your primary light source. Philadelphia Grotto may be able to loan this item.
Two sets of fresh batteries – For primary helmet mounted light.
Two additional light sources – At least one preferable helmet mountable using the same battery size as primary light source.
Sturdy boots – Good fitting hiking boots with good treads and ankle support are very suitable. Sturdy boots help prevent ankle sprains and good treads give you more secure footing. Boots are likely to get very wet and will wear quickly – many cavers use work boots from discount stores. NO SNEAKERS.
Sturdy work gloves – Leather work gloves are good. Bring synthetic (polypro) glove liners if you get cold hands. Some people prefer rubberized work gloves for wet caves.
Old rugged clothing – Sturdy synthetic clothing is strongly recommended for warmth when wet. Synthetic coveralls are preferred by many cavers as they don’t come untucked.. No Tyvec or disposable garments allowed. Check with your trip leader regarding cave conditions so you can choose suitable clothing. Consider the outside conditions – will you be hiking 2 miles in 10 degree weather? Will you be scrambling up long hills in 95 degree weather?
Thermal layering underwear – Synthetic or wool underlayers, fleece for cold caves or if you get cold easily. NO COTTON – it provides no warmth if you get wet, and wet cotton makes you very vulnerable to hypothermia – the saying is that “cotton kills!” Bring an extra synthetic or wool top – fleece perhaps – in case the trip is colder then you anticipated.
Synthetic warm socks
Small back pack
Water – Bring 2 liters of water or more.
Food – High energy/non crushable snacks, energy bars, granola, trail mix. Bring extra in case the trip runs longer then planned.
Plastic garbage bag – Can be used as a heat tent for an in-cave emergency, and holds your wet dirty caving gear after the trip.
Change of clothes – Complete set of clean clothes to change into after the trip
Small First Aid Kit – be able to manage blisters, headaches, loose bowels, small cuts, dirt in your contact lenses, etc. Coordinate with your trip leader to ensure that the group has the resources necessary to handle larger problems. Include any personal medications you may need and make the Expedition Leader aware of them.