Southern Appalachian Mountains,
Henderson and Rutherford Counties
"Bat Cave Map"
Contact: NC Geographical Survey
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612.
Bat Cave is owned by The Nature Conservancy and a private landowner and is accessible only through the North Carolina Chapter’s field trip program. Check the Field Trip page for information. Please note that to protect the bats and their fragile ecosystem, the cave itself is not open to the public. Contact our Mountains Office for more information:
The Nature Conservancy
1316 A Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28806
For Field Trip or Work Day Information: Mtns_Volunteers@tnc.org
After hiking a mile up a steep trail through a mature hardwood forest, you will be rewarded with Bat Cave’s natural air conditioning: a cool moist draft that constantly pours out of vents on the side of the large cave. Bat Cave is the largest known granite fissure cave in North America. The main chamber is a dark cathedral more than 300 feet long and approximately 85 feet high. (Unfortunately, to protect the bats, the cave is currently closed to visitors.) Fissure caves are formed by rock splits, boulder movements, and other motions of the earth, while most other caves are formed by water dissolving and abrading rock.
While seeing this impressive cave opening is the attraction for most visitors, the rugged slopes around Bat Cave contain an equally important array of habitats and creatures. Hickory Nut Gorge is cloaked in cove hardwood forest, while Carolina hemlock and chestnut oak forest are found on the cliff tops and ridgeline. The forests harbor a number of threatened or endangered plants, such as broadleaf coreopsis and Carey’s saxifrage. The preserve has an abundance of spring wildflowers, including bloodroot, toothwort, trillium, and violets.
One of the Conservancy’s goals in managing this preserve is to reestablish the critically endangered Indiana bat to its former habitat. Again, the cave itself is closed to visitation at all times and the preserve is closed from October to mid-April in an effort to allow the bats to hibernate undisturbed. If bats are disturbed during hibernation, they fly around and quickly use up the stored energy that they need to survive the winter.
Three previously undescribed invertebrates -- a spider, a millipede, and an amphipod -- also live in the cave and are specially adapted to survive without sunlight and with a limited food supply. In warm months, you may see the crevice salamander sunning on exposed rocks.
In 1981, Margaret Flinsch began making gifts of undivided interest in the Bat Cave natural area to The Nature Conservancy. The preserve is now completely owned by The Nature Conservancy. The Flinsches had owned the property since the 1920s. Invasive species such as tree-of-heaven, multiflora rose, Japanese grass, wineberry, and Japanese honeysuckle threaten the preserve’s native plants. North Carolina Chapter staff and volunteers are battling these exotic plants through the invasive species program.
Public Natural Areas