{Travel Guide} Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

A couple weeks ago I shared the first stop on our recent Louisville-Nashville trip (the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory). Today I want to talk about the main reason for our Kentucky detour – Mammoth Cave National Park. Adam and I are huge fans for the National Parks. I would love to visit all of them someday, but for 2018, my goal is to visit 2 of them. Anyway, our original plan was to just visit Nashville for a long weekend, but when I realized how close Mammoth Cave NP was, I completely changed our travel plans.


Mammoth Cave National Park is about 1.5 hours south of Louisville and 1.5 hours north of Nashville, so it’s in a great location no matter which city you’re visiting. There’s also a Dinosaur World and the Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo nearby, so there’s plenty to do in the area if you want to make a day of it. 

Entrance to Mammoth Cave is by tour only and tickets are required. It’s STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you book ahead of time. We went just before peak-season and during the week, so tours were still available when we arrived, but we had already booked our tour online so it didn’t matter. If you’re planning to visiting during the summer or on a weekend, book in advance! I read quite a few reviews online about people not buying tickets ahead of time and arriving to a sold out schedule.  




There are multiple tour routes available at varying times throughout the day. They have tours in all difficulty ranges, plus an accessible tour, so there’s really something for everyone. Check here for the latest tour schedule. We booked the Domes and Dripstones tour because it fit our travel plans the best and we were really happy with the tour. One of my coworkers stopped on her road trip a couple weeks later and took the same tour. She said they all really enjoyed it too.


The Domes and Dripstones tour is about 2 hours long and covers ¾ of a mile, BUT it also includes 500 stairs. The initial descent is down 280 narrow, winding stairs. It was definitely doable, but if you have trouble with stairs or being in tight places, you might want to pick another tour. Oh, and the entrance is not the main cave entrance. You take a bus to the New Entrance and exit at the Frozen Niagra Entrance, then bus back to the visitor center. 



The tour starts off in the dry part of the cave and ends in an area that’s still living and formations are still growing, so it’s really interesting to see the full lifecycle of the cave. Our ranger guide was excellent and shared so much information on how the cave was discovered and its history. The dry part was interesting, but the end of the tour with the stalactites and stalagmites was the best.


The Frozen Niagara formation is pretty amazing! Our guide also pointed out cave bacon and cave popcorn formations. There’s definitely plenty to see in this part of the cave! 


After the tour we hopped back on the bus to the visitor center. When you get off the bus, you have to walk across some soapy mats to remove spores and dirt from your shoes. White-nose syndrome is present in the bats in Mammoth Cave and they are trying to prevent it from being spread to other caves and mines. The disease is not known to affect humans (so no need to worry), but it is deadly to bats and has killed millions already. You can read more about it here. I honestly just mention this because I wore canvas flats that day and they got a little wet walking across the mat, so I was stuck in wet shoes for the rest of our visit. So plan your footwear accordingly!




From there you can check out the gift shops or grab something to eat. The gift shops are actually really nice and had a great selection of handmade, local items. They have a full restaurant and a quick café/ice cream parlor too. I got a scoop of local-made ice cream and it was delicious!


We really enjoyed our visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. It was definitely worth the effort to move around our travel plans. If I ever visit again, I would love to take the Historic Tour. It starts at the Historic Entrance and goes through an entirely different section of the cave than the Domes and Dripstones tour.


For more information on the caves and tour schedule, check out their website here



10 comments

  1. This looks like a really fun excursion. I love seeing all the stalactites and stalagmites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were awesome! It's so much bigger and better in person. The pictures definitely don't do them justice!

      Delete
  2. Wow! That looks like so much thing. I’ve done a lot of unique things but none of them have involved caves. Challenge accepted!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! You need to add 'explore a cave' to your list!

      Delete
  3. Wow!! That looks like it'd be something amazing to see! I may have to take the family for a trip up there sometime this summer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's nice and cool in the cave, so it'd be a great way to escape the summer heat for a couple hours!

      Delete
  4. The patterns in the rock are incredible. Talk about history! These caves must be millions of years old. What a great learning experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you imagine being the person who found the cave?!

      Delete

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!