PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Mammoth Cave National Park

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  • The longest cave system in the world
  • A variety of cave tours and guided walks
  • Tranquil above-ground forest and hill country

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Highly variable with possibility of storms year-round. Very rainy in spring. Fairly warm year-round.

Location: Southern Kentucky – 1.5 hours south of Louisville and north of Nashville

Mammoth Cave is a world wonder with over 400 miles of cave and more yet likely still unmapped. Stepping inside the cave will take you back in time and expose you to a level of darkness that is difficult to come by on the surface. After you explore the caves, you can enjoy a nice hike in the park’s Green River Valley, a wonderful showcase of Kentucky’s hill country.

Photo: Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave on the Historic Tour

What To See & Do in Mammoth Cave

For safety reasons, tours are the only way visitors are allowed to enter the caves. Tours can be reserved in advance or day of (but sometimes fill up).

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Historic Cave Tour

Mammoth Cave Tours

Cave tours vary by season, but here are some of the most popular ones, ranked by visual appeal.

  1. Domes & Dripstones

    • 3/4 mile round trip, 2 hours, easy to moderately strenuous, $15
    • Walk through several domes, pits, and stunning dripstone formations
  2. Grand Avenue

    • 4 miles round trip, 4 hours, strenuous, $26
    • If you want to see as much of the cave as possible, this long tour is right for you! You’ll see some of the largest passages and gypsum and dripstone formations.
  3. Frozen Niagara

    • 1/4 mile round trip, 1 1/4 hours, easy, $13
    • You won’t have to work very hard to get gorgeous views of this unique formation
  4. Historic Tour

    • 2 miles round trip, 2 hours, easy to moderately strenuous
    • You’ll see several large rooms and learn a lot about the cave’s history on this tour, which doesn’t feature as many pretty rock formations like stalactites and stalagmites as other tours.
  5. Accessible Tour

    • 1/2 mile round trip, 2 hours, easy, $20
    • The only elevator accessible tour, you’ll get to see gypsum formations and cave writing

Mammoth Cave Hikes

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Green River Bluffs Trail
  1. Green River Bluffs Trail

    • 2.8 miles round trip, out & back, 1-2 hours, 450 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Great panoramic views of the Green River and surrounding forest
    • Conveniently starts right at the Visitor Center where cave tours begin
  2. Cedar Sink Trail

    • 2 miles round trip, out & back, 1 hour, 300 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Close-up view of the tiny, peaceful Cedar Spring; you’ll pass other smaller springs along the way
  3. Β Sal Hollow Trail

    • 10.8 mile loop, 4-6 hours, 630 foot elevation gain, easy to moderately strenuous
    • Dense forest, creeks, and small waterfalls
    • Beginning from the trailhead, take the 8 mile Sal Hollow Trail until it ends, then make a right on the Buffalo Creek Trail to return to your car

Where To Stay & Eat in Mammoth Cave

The Mammoth Cave Hotel – located right next to the Visitor Center – is the only dining facility in the park. It has a coffee shop, to go lunches, and a fine dining restaurant. There are many other eateries in the town of Cave City just 15 minutes outside the park.

There are two campgrounds in the park – Mammoth Cave which has 105 reservable sites open March-November and Houchin Ferry which has 12 first-come, first-serve year-round sites.

The Mammoth Cave Hotel has 20 rooms and 10 cottages which are usually booked in advance. There are plenty of other lodging options just outside the park in Cave City.

Nearby Side Trips from Mammoth Cave

Nashville: Only 1.5 hours south! The heart and soul of country music, Nashville is distinguished by the live country and bluegrass you’ll hear in many of its bars and restaurants and an aesthetically pleasing mix of historical and contemporary buildings. Read more.

 

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