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Mammoth Cave is one of the most well-known landmark features in Kentucky. The cave has a long history within the state and has kept many travelers intrigued by its slightly unusual and captivating caverns, which span 400 miles underground. It's also known as the world's largest cave system, and this, alone, spurs a fascination that is rarely seen with other, smaller caves.

Related: Krubera Cave Is The World's Deepest, And Getting To The Bottom Isn't Even The Half Of It

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What's perhaps even more peculiar about this cave system is that its above-ground surroundings are just as intriguing. Some tours allow visitors to wind their way through one of many hiking trails that wind through the woodland forests in the region, making for a very full-on adventure. Visitors must sign up for a tour in order to see the caves and trust us when we say it's worth it. Not only will guests be able to navigate the caverns with a pro leading the way, but they'll also gain an interesting insight into the history of Mammoth Cave.

UPDATE: 2022/05/26 12:21 EST BY LIANNA TEDESCO

These Tours Of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave Are Worth Taking, Ranked By Difficulty

Mammoth Cave continues to be one of the most fascinating underground cavern systems in the world. While tours are ongoing throughout the year and change according to cave conditions and availability, one thing remains the same: It's entirely worth visiting. We've updated this feature to include relevant information such as tour prices, detailed difficulty levels, walking distance, and any other details one might need to know prior to choosing one. The hope is that this will make planning a future trip easier, and will provide visitors with an idea of what to expect whenever they do.

Frozen Niagara Tour, Domes & Dripstones Tour: Very Easy To Moderate

Both of these tours are ranked as being fairly easy since they don't encompass as many steps as the others. The Frozen Niagara Tour is great for those who are still unsure about how deep they want to go into Mammoth Cave, and it's only a quarter-mile tour. Additionally, this tour is much shorter than the others, taking only about an hour and 15 minutes to complete. Visitors have the option to complete the full 98 steps but are only required to take 12. The shuttle bus takes roughly a half-hour to the site of the tour, and visitors have the chance to see formations in the Frozen Niagara section of the cave as well as the Drapery Room.

Similarly, Domes & Dripstones takes visitors on a limited tour, but this one goes a bit deeper, with a total length of three-quarters of a mile and a time span of two hours. Visitors will see the same cavern sections with the addition of unique formations they'll be walking past as opposed to taking the shuttle straight to Frozen Niagara.

Frozen Niagara Tour Details

  • Duration: 1.25 hours
  • Distance: 0.25 miles (0.4 km)
  • Total Stairs: 12, plus an optional 98
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Ages: All ages. Youth under the age of 16 years, must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Restrooms: No
  • Fees: $18 Adults, $14 Youth, $9 Senior Pass Holder, $9 Access Pass Holder.

Domes & Dripstones Tour Details

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Distance: 0.75 miles (1.2 km)
  • Total Stairs: 500, including 280 on the initial staircase descent
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Ages: All ages. Youth under the age of 16 years, must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Restrooms: No
  • Fees: $21 Adults, $16 Youth, $10.50 Senior Pass Holder, $10.50 Access Pass Holder.

Historic Tour: Easy

When choosing any tour, one that includes a ton of history is always the best bet. The Mammoth Cave Historic Tour is by far the most popular and one of the mid-length tours (some take up to six hours!), with a length of two hours covering a span of two miles. This is a great tour for newcomers to cave systems as well as Mammoth Cave; starting at the main entrance of the cave, guests will take 440 steps down into the cave itself to explore several major features.

Included are stops at Mammoth Dome, Bottomless Pit, Fat Man's Misery (squeezing in tight spaces required), Tall Man's Misery (crouching required), and some saltpeter mines. A 200-year history will be discussed throughout the tour, and it's by far one of the most beginner-friendly treks offered by the cave.

Grand Avenue Tour: Moderate To Difficult

The Grand Avenue Tour comes in at a moderate ranking because it is four hours long, and covers a distance of four miles. There are bathroom stops included on this tour, and, along the way, visitors will see Cleveland Avenue, Boone Avenue, Kentucky Avenue, and Mt. McKinley before ending in Frozen Niagara and the Drapery room. This is a great option for those who want to see the lesser-explored parts of the cave.

Grand Avenue Tour Details

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
  • Total Stairs: 1313
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Ages: 6 years and older. Youth under the age of 16 years, must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Restrooms: Yes
  • Fees: $35 Adults, $27 Youth, $17.50 Senior Pass Holder, $17.50 Access Pass Holder.

Violet City Tour & Star Chamber Tour: Moderate

The Violet City Tour takes travelers down into the cave by lantern light to see some of the most famous and notable signatures that have been left on the walls throughout history. Along the way, the tour overlaps parts of Gothic Avenue, the Historic Tour, Star Chamber, and Mammoth Passage Tours. The tour lasts about three hours over a span of three miles.

Alternatively, the Star Chamber Tour covers many of the same features, but it is shorter at a length of two and a half hours, covering a distance of one and a half miles.

Violet City Tour Details

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
  • Total Stairs: 160 and numerous hills with no handrails.
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Ages: 6 years and older. Youth under the age of 16 years, must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Restrooms: No
  • Tickets available for each tour time: 38
  • Fees: $25 Adults, $20 Youth, $12.50 Senior Pass Holder, $12.50 Access Pass Holder.

Star Chamber Tour Details

  • Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km)
  • Total Stairs: 160
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Ages: 6 years and older. Youth under the age of 16 years, must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Restrooms: No
  • Tickets available for each tour time: 40
  • Fees: $25 Adults, $20 Youth, $12.50 Senior Pass Holder, $12.50 Access Pass Holder.

River Styx Tour: Moderate

For anyone interested in the cave's water features, the River Styx Tour is the way to go. This tour takes two and a half hours, covering two and a half miles through the cavern's most impressive lakes and flowing waters.

The Dead Sea, Lake Lethe, and River Styx are all included.

River Styx Tour Details

  • Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)
  • Total Stairs: Approximately 600, including 155 at Mammoth Dome.
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Ages: All ages. Youth under the age of 16 years, must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Restrooms: No, restrooms are temporarily unavailable on this tour.
  • Tickets available for each tour time: 30
  • Fees: $22 Adults, $16 Youth, $11 Senior Pass Holder, $11 Access Pass Holder.

Wild Cave Tour: Difficult

The longest and most strenuous hike is the Wild Cave Tour which takes visitors through the experience as though they were cave explorers, themselves.

The tour is six hours long and traverses a distance of six miles, feeling much more like an underground hike. Belly crawling, rock scrambling, climbing, and narrow passageways are all part of this tour for the truly adventurous. Visitors receive knee pads and a hard hat, and it should be booked in advance to avoid choosing a sold-out date.

Accessible Cave Tour

This tour is open to anyone who has mobility issues and features elevators rather than stairs throughout the tour. Guests will see the Grand Avenue route of the cave over the span of two hours, covering a total distance of half a mile.

No matter which tour one chooses when visiting Kentucky's famous Mammoth Cave, it's certain to be an experience that they'll remember. As one of the most unique cave systems on earth, it's worth the price of a tour - and worth the effort it takes to get there.