Dunbar Cave State Park is home to Dunbar Cave which was inhabited by Native Americans for hundreds of years before English settlers arrived. These inhabitants left drawings on the cave walls, perhaps as part of religious ceremonies. By 1790, the area was claimed by Isaac Rowe Peterson, who subsequently left the area in order to prepare his family to move there. During his absence Thomas Dunbar also claimed the area and settled his family there. Upon Petersons return a legal battle ensued, with legal title to the land going to Peterson in 1792, although the cave retained Dunbar’s name.
The entrance to Dunbar Cave is 58 degrees year-round which was a popular attraction during the summer months. After the Civil War, the first resort was built in the area surrounding Dunbar Cave. By the 1930s, the cave became a hotspot for local bands and other entertainment. In 1948, country music legend Roy Acuff bought the property and staged his Saturday Night Radio Dance Broadcast from the site. The cave’s popularity declined in the 1950s when indoor air-conditioning became common in households. In 1973, Governor Winfield Dunn purchased the property and designated it a state natural area.
Dunbar Cave State Park is known for it's extensive cave system. Due to the outbreak of White Nose Bat Syndrome, Dunbar Cave tours are suspended indefinitely in order to prevent the spread of this deadly fungus that afflicts hibernating bats.
There are still many other activities available to visitors including multiple hiking tours, fishing and interpretive programs. All park trails, with varying degrees of difficulty, begin and end at the visitor center.