Mammoth Cave National Park
Located: Kentucky - Established: July 1, 1941
The Park: Scientific evidence indicates that Native Americans first ventured into Mammoth Cave over 2000 years ago. Most recently, the “discovery” of Mammoth Cave is credited to hunter John Houchins who, somewhere between 1798 and 1802, wounded a bear that either led John to the entrance of the cave…or angrily chased him inside it!
Nonetheless, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system and features over 400 miles of grand and gloomy chambers. Ranger led Cave Tours vary depending upon the season and although reservations are not required, they are highly recommended!
Mammoth Cave is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America with tours of the cave system having been offered since 1816. Popular tours include the Frozen Niagara– a short stroll and easy introductory visit to Mammoth Cave. The Grand Avenue Tour, 4 miles in length, is rated “strenuous” and guides you to the classic landmarks of the Cave. “Strenuous” in cave language means you will need to climb and descend stairs without getting severely winded. If you have no heart or respiratory issues, “strenuous” cave tours should pose no problem.
The 3-mile Violet City Lantern Tour is done by candlelight - allowing you to experience the Cave just as the early explorers did.
If you desire to get down and dirty, the Wild Cave Tour will appeal to you! On this tour, you’ll crawl on hands and knees, squeeze through tight quarters, and walk about the realms of this fascinating underground world.
Because we did not have reservations for the sold out and very popular Grand Avenue Tour, we opted for the Domes and Dripstones Tour, which includes a small section of Grand Avenue and all of the Frozen Niagara Tour.
Getting there: Mammoth Cave is located 35 miles northeast of Bowling Green, Kentucky off of I-65.
When to go: The park is open year round and cave tours are given every day except December 25th. Summer months are the busiest and cave tour reservations are highly recommended.
What to do: Most who come to explore Mammoth Cave seek to hike the underground world of the cave system; however, above grade, there are 84 miles of trails woven into the tapestry of the rolling Kentucky landscape. Mountain biking and horseback riding are other popular activities at Mammoth Cave.
Where to stay: Mammoth Cave highlights three developed campgrounds with over 100 available campsites and offers more than a dozen primitive sites in the backcountry along the Green and Nolin Rivers.
Mammoth Cave Hotel is located adjacent to the Natural Entrance and the park’s Visitor Center and offers a wide variety of lodging options. The Hotel was under extensive renovation during our visit in September 2015.
Outside the park, we found a newly renovated and delightful Bed and Breakfast in Park City called The Grand Victorian Inn. The hospitality and food was extraordinary!
Memorable moment: Learning about the history of the "cave wars" between the local citizens prior to and after the area became a National Park.
Trivia: Stalactites in Mammoth Cave and other caverns grow downward – they hang “tight” to the ceiling. Stalagmites grow upward - they “might” reach the ceiling some day.
Banner: Inner workings of the cave.
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by the park's Visitor Center
- Take a Cave Tour or two
- Hike the park’s many trails
- Bike Trails abound – take one!