The Mammoth Cave National Park of Kentucky!

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The Mammoth Cave National Park of Kentucky is an adventure of a lifetime.  It’s a wonderful place for the rookie cave explorer or the seasoned spelunker. At Mammoth Cave, there are nineteen different cave tours you can take from the easiest the Discovery Tour (30 minutes, .75 miles) to the hardest the Wild Cave Tour (6 hours, 6 miles). You’ll definitely find something that suits your caving desires. If you don’t like caves there are many above ground activities you can do.  There is something for everyone at Mammoth Cave. Over the next several minutes we’ll be going over everything you need to know to make the best out of your trip.

Mammoth Cave has been giving tours since 1816 baffling millions of visitors who come and see it. Mammoth Cave National Park gets over 500,000 visitors every year.  Cave tours do sell out quickly so you might want to make your reservations before you go. You can get them at Recreation.gov.  Reservations are not required but highly recommended. You can also get cave tour tickets at the visitor center information desk.  There are over 400 miles of explored and mapped passageways, geologists estimate there are hundreds more undiscovered. Go yourself and make some discoveries!

Most people just come to Mammoth Cave for the cave tours but they’d be surprised to know there are over 80 miles of hiking trails. 60 of which are horseback riding trails that are on the north side of the park.  Hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, kayaking or canoeing, wildlife watching, ranger-led activities are among the most popular above ground things to do at the park.  First, let’s discuss some of the cave tours and then we’ll discuss some above-ground activities.

The Famous Historic Tour!

The Historic Tour starts at the natural entrance. You’ll simply walk behind the visitor center and the Mammoth Cave Hotel down a hill to the natural entrance. You’ll see some amazing sights including the Bottomless Pit and Fat Man’s Misery discovered by Stephen Bishop. He was a slave tour guide back in the 1800s who ultimately became the most famous cave explorer at Mammoth Cave.  You’ll learn all about him and the history of the cave and how it was used to mine saltpeter for ammunition during the war of 1812. These classic Mammoth Cave landmarks were visited by celebrities and notable figures in the 1800s and early 1900s. As you watch the clip of the Historic Tour notice the huge caverns and bottomless pits. It is really freaking to see the pits. The tour is $14 per adult and $9 per kid. Seniors pay$7.50. The tour is 2 hours long and only 2 miles.  It is the most popular tour at Mammoth Cave. However, in my opinion, it isn’t the best. 

The Amazing Domes and Dripstones Tour

The Domes and Dripstones Tour is my personal favorite at the park. If you want to see stunning stalactites and stalagmites then the Domes and Dripstones Tour would be for you. The tour is 2 hours and about .75 miles. You’ll walk a lot of stairs but you’ll be really impressed with all the cave formations you’ll get to see.  The entrance is about 5 minutes from the visitor center.  You’ll get to take a bus provided by the Mammoth Cave Hotel there and back.  The tour begins with you going down a bunch of man-made steps. The steps take you down to the level of where all the awesome sights are. You could imagine trying to do the tour without the stairs.  It must have been really amazing to discover this area of the cave.  As you go deeper and deeper you’ll see some pits and caverns. The stalactites and stalagmites are truly unimaginable.  The tour is $15 per adult and $10 per kid. Seniors pay $7.50. One of the best things about the Domes and Dripstones Tour is getting to see Frozen Niagara at the end of the tour. It is a special treat and it is why I think the Domes and Dripstones Tour is the best. Getting to see Frozen Niagara at the end of the tour was something really special.  Check out the video of the Domes and Dripstones Tour.

The Unimaginable Frozen Niagara!

You can see Frozen Niagara by taking the Frozen Niagara Tour, Domes and Dripstones Tour, Grand Avenue Tour and the Wild Cave Tour. Frozen Niagara is probably the most excellent sight at Mammoth Cave.  It is truly a remarkable experience getting to see it in person.  Frozen Niagara is a stunning 75 -foot stone waterfall. It is incredible how nature created such a sight. It’s really hard to picture how nature over a vast amount of time could create this natural wonder of the world.  Most people make the mistake by only going on the Historic Tour since it is the most popular but through experience, I can say that seeing Frozen Niagara was much more amazing and breathtaking than anything during the Historic Tour.

Hiking around Mammoth Cave!

Hiking at Mammoth Cave is great! There are 3 sections of the park. The visitor center area, the south side, and the north side.  Most people hike on the visitor center trails because they are so close to the visitor center and Mammoth Cave Hotel but if you want to do some serious hiking then you’ll need to go on the north side of the park.  There are several trails on the north side that are long including Raymer Hollow Trail (6.2 miles) and First Creek Trail (6.3 miles). Most trails on the north side of the park are also horseback riding trails.  You’ll see signs like the picture below telling you what is allowed on the trail whether hiking, biking, or horseback riding.

One of the best things about the visitor center area trails is that they are short distances. Nothing over 1.5 miles. They are perfect to hike as you wait on your cave tour to begin. The visitor center trails also have some of the best above ground sights at the park including Sunset Point, Scenic Overlook, and the Green River Bluff trail.

With over 80 miles of hiking trails at Mammoth Cave National Park, you’ll easily be able to find seclusion and isolation. The north side of the park is less visited and where you’ll find the best trails.

Camping at Mammoth Cave!

Backcountry camping at Mammoth Cave is free. All you need to do is get a permit from the information desk at the visitors center. You can stay up to 14 days. There are over a dozen backcountry campsites you can stay at.

There are 3 developed campgrounds. The Mammoth Cave Campground, The Maple Spring Campground, and the Houchin Ferry Campground.  For 2 of the developed campgrounds, you’ll need to book your reservations at Recreation.gov. Mammoth Cave Campground and Maple Springs Campground do cost money ranging from $12 to $50. Houchin FerryCampgroundd is free. It is first come first serve.

The Mammoth Cave Campground is great because it is so close to everything but is also isolated in some degree. Caver’s Camp Store is nearby. Inside you’ll find basic supplies, coin-operated showers, coin-operated washer and dryer, and a post office. There are little trails that lead to the Mammoth Cave Hotel and visitor center. Also, you would be near the amphitheater and the Historic Cottages. You can see what I’m talking about by clicking the google map. 

Kayaking and Canoeing the Green River

There are 25 miles of the Green River and 6 miles of the Nolin River you can kayak or canoe.  Kayaking and canoeing down the Green River and Nolin River is a very awesome thing to do at Mammoth Cave. There are several different businesses around the park that offer rentals and tours. There are overnight tours where you can kayak or canoe and camp out overnight on the river banks. Mammoth Cave Kayaking.  Click the link to see all the different place offering kayaking and canoeing services.  Kayaking and Canoeing is one of the best above activities to do at Mammoth Cave.

One thing you’ll notice once you start to explore Mammoth Cave is how peaceful and quiet it is. Like I said most people who go to Mammoth Cave go just for the cave tours. Although the cave tours are awesome you’ll have a better time if you do some of these above ground activities.

Staying at Mammoth Cave Hotel

If you chose to stay at the Mammoth Cave Hotel you can stay in 1 of 4 types of rooms.  The Historic Cottages, The Woodland Cottages, The Sunset Terrace, and The Heritage Rooms.  It really is a matter of personal choice. You can check out the Mammoth Cave Hotel by going their website at The Lodge at Mammoth Cave. I will mention that the Historic Cottages are air conditioned but there is no TV or WiFi. The Woodland Cottages do not have air condition, TV, or WiFi. If you want TV and WiFi you’ll need to stay at The Heritage Rooms or the Sunset Terrace.

If you don’t end up staying at the Mammoth Cave Hotel you can go find a nice room in Cave City. The rooms aren’t expensive. None of them are over $120 a night. Check out the google link to see all the hotels in Cave City.  I actually stayed at the Motel 6 for 2 nights for only $100 bucks total. Definitely not the best rooms, but I was hardly there anyway.

Best Way to Plan your Trip

The best way to plan any trip is to set down and say I’m only going to spend “X” amount of dollars and budget from that. One of the best things about Mammoth Cave is that it can be a very cheap vacation getaway. Heck, its possible to spend only what it cost to get to and from the park. Cave tours do get expensive though. If you have a family of 4 it would cost around $50 buck. So, most families don’t want to spend $100 bucks on 2 cave tours. I recommend just going on the Domes and Dripstones Tour you’ll get the best bang for your buck. Nobody can complain about Frozen Niagara and the all the cave formations they will see. Make sure you book your cave tour reservations before you go so you don’t have to deal with the hassle. Try to lay out everything you want to do during this vacation and see if the budget calls for it. Save money on lodging by camping out backcountry. That alone will make the trip cheap.

Well, I hope this blog helped you get a good idea of what the Mammoth Cave National Park of Kentucky is all about. I have been there so many times I can’t count them all. I’m planning on going back this spring. If you want to learn more about Mammoth Cave check out the Mammoth Cave page on this site.

I hope this information helps you make the best out of your trip! Please like, tag, share and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from ya! Safe Travels 🙂

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