Up is not always the way to go because in Kentucky, going down is the first option. With more than 400 miles of explored areas, Mammoth Cave is easily the longest in the world. It might be longer seeing as 600 miles of its system remains undiscovered.
In 2021, more than half a million visited the Mammoth Cave National Park - and visiting the cave is the most obvious thing to do. This Kentucky destination is great for those looking to try spelunking. However, claustrophobes and people afraid of getting dirty should not worry as it has other attractions like stunning rivers and overlooks alongside historic sites.
Up above and down below, there’s something for everyone in this park. The cave is mammoth with spectacular outside views. The place is a spelunker’s paradise but more than that, a refuge for those who want to have a satisfying day outdoors. Without further ado, there’s no way to go but down.
Planning Your Visit To Mammoth Cave National Park
This massive park is always welcoming since it’s just right for the public to enjoy the beauty of its long cave. Here are some reminders for a hassle-free trip to this Kentucky attraction. The park is open 24 hours, however Mammoth Cave Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (or until 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., depending on the season). There's no entrance fee to the park, but there are fees for tours, camping, and picnic shelters.
Activities You Can (And Should) Do When Visiting Mammoth Cave
The cave is so long that it just waits for adventurers to explore its pathways. Outside, there are other activities for those who want some sunshine.
There are more than 10 cave tours that are most popular during fall or spring. The two-mile Cleaveland Avenue Tour will let guests see sparkling gypsum walls and tube-shaped passages. Cavers can also check out ceilings and walls with evidence of early visitors. It costs $22. The Domes & Dripstones Tour is one of the classics, taking guests to a sinkhole, domes, breakdowns (not the emotional one), and a dripstone section. The ups and downs of this tour are challenging. It costs $21. For those who want an easy trek, they can try the 12-stair Frozen Niagara Tour, one of the most famous. It costs $18. For those who want to get the most out of the cave, they can take the four-hour Grand Avenue Tour. It will lead trekkers to tubular passageways, slot/tall canyons, and tunnels. This rewarding tour costs $35.
The Great Onyx Lantern Tour, which costs $23, will take guests on a mile-long journey in the Great Onyx Cave where geological formations await. Other the other hand, the two-hour Gothic Avenue Tour is a moderate trek with views of unusual rock formations that resemble Gothic architecture. There are artifacts, monuments, and signatures left by early visitors. It costs $19.
The Historic Tour is a trip down memory lane as it takes guests to tunnels that humans have been using for thousands of years. It costs $20, while an extended tour costs $23. Another easy journey will welcome guests in the Mammoth Passage Tour where they will be taken to huge rooms and broad walkways, perfect for those afraid of tight spaces. It costs $11. The River Styx Cave Tour will take guests not just to geological formations but to an underground water source. It costs $22. Additionally, the nighttime Star Chamber Lantern Tour is not just sightseeing but is dubbed an "experience tour." This journey will lead guests to the Star Chamber and Gothic Avenue. It costs $25.
The Violet City Lantern Tour takes three hours to finish and involves climbing and descending steep hills on dirt trails. It's not for the faint-hearted. It costs $25. The park also offers the "Beneath Your Feet" program, where tourists can learn more about the history and geology of the place while they walk on above-ground trails.
It's all about breaking a sweat in the park because right from the get-go, there are 7.2 miles of trails around the visitor center that boasts of sinkholes, ridgetops, river views, springs, and historic cemeteries, and views of cave entrances. Beyond the visitor center, there's the Cedar Sink Trail where wildflowers abound, perfect for botany lovers. However, those who want more challenges can conquer 37 miles of backcountry trails where they can drink in the sights of river vistas, forest ridges, and valleys.
The hikers should also stop by any of the park's four overlooks which let them appreciate the expanse of the Green River Valley. In addition, there are also historic churches and cemeteries for a trip down memory lane.
Camping And Picnic
What makes a journey outdoors even more memorable? Camping, that is. There are three campgrounds in the area, but backcountry campers are welcome, too.
The campsites at Mammoth Cave Campground are perfect for those who want to be near the amenities, park facilities, and jumpoff points of cave tours. For larger groups who want to be away from crowds, they can settle in Maple Springs Campground.
Fishers can consider the Houchin Ferry Campground their hideout because it's beside the Green River. For those who want a primitive camping experience, there are 13 backcountry sites available. They can also settle beside streams or on islands along Nolin and Green Rivers.
Picnickers, meanwhile, can enjoy their meals on several sites perfectly located under towering trees.
Paddling And Fishing
Thanks to the two rivers that pass through the park, tourists can also try their luck fishing or paddle along the waters. The Green River is one of the most biodiverse in the United States, making it an ideal spot for some angling action. More than 200 species of fish and mussels consider this waterway home. And, the Nolin is part of a watershed and is home to various species.
In both rivers, anglers can reel in crappies, perches, bass, catfish, bluegills, or muskellunge. The current of the Green River will put paddlers to the test as they navigate their way to sandbars, springs, and islands.
There are also ranger programs, biking trails, horseback riding areas, and stargazing spots in the park. Mammoth Cave National Park is one humble attraction that deserves everyone’s attention. It’s world-class, after all.