Donaldson Cave (West Virginia)

While considered a beginner cave, Donaldson Cave is by no means boring and offers a variety of challenges to someone who is just starting out caving.

Donaldson Cave, West Virginia


Berkeley County, West Virginia.


The Donaldson Cave has 761 feet of passageways; its maximum depth is 45 feet. No ropework is required to navigate the cave. Lower parts of the cave are often filled with pools of water. At times, the water level is very high in these parts.

The entrance slopes down into a larger room (10ft tall, 15ft long) full of breakdown, with a pool of water at the lower end. The large main room also has an entrance hole to the lower levels. Backtracking from there, another large room is to the left (north) featuring another pool of water and various formations, showing evidence of water once flowing there. From there, a narrow passageway leads to a back passage that features many beautiful flowstone formations and has tight squeezes in the middle of it. For beginners, one trip often isn’t enough to do all the exploration in the cave. Try to avoid times of the year when the water is high in the cave; you might only get to see 25% of it unless you want to swim or wade in high water.

Caving difficulty

Easy. You do have to get on your knees and belly in a few spots, but there are no difficult challenges and no ropework — an excellent introduction for beginner cavers.

Cave map (survey)

Map and photographs of Donaldson Cave (map modified from Gulden and Johnson, 1984; photos by D. Doctor).

[A] Looking up to the entrance from within the cave. Notice the deep slope.

[B] The large main room, full of breakdown, also featuring entry to a lower level not seen on this image.

[C] One of the cave extensions to the north with the end of the extension collapsed.

[D] The end of the main room, often pooled with water, is also the deepest part of the cave.

Access and requirements

The cave itself is gated and locked and surrounded by residential lots; to access the cave, it is necessary to obtain permission from the cave manager (Mr. B.Bennet, e-mail: gimpycaver[at], phone no. 304-821-4621). All the usual caving safety precautions must be followed, including having at least two light sources and a hard hat in order to gain permission for access. Also, make sure you read and comply with the West Virginia Code, Chapter 20, Article 7A. Cave Protection – accessible here.

If you have been to Donaldson Cave, tell us your experience in the comments!

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