Mammoth Cave National Park: A Visitor’s Guide

Mammoth Cave National Park

mammoth cave national park
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Mammoth Cave National Park was established in 1941, designated’ a World Heritage Site in 1981, and declared an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990. The Mammoth Cave network is the world’s longest, extending for more than 390 miles beneath the hills of southern Kentucky. This incredible maze of underground passages, endless vertical shafts, and cold, black rivers, also hides many unusual creatures: eyeless fish, cave spiders, white crayfish, and rare beetles, among many others. Above ground, the park has 70 miles of backcountry hiking and horseback-riding trails, plus 31 miles of scenic shorelines along the Green and Nolin Rivers.

arrow-icon  Phone Number: 270/758-2180

arrow-icon  Park Hours:  Park opens daily with daily cave tours (except December 25).

arrow-icon  When to Go: Busiest July and August. Least crowded December and January.

arrow-icon  Helpful Links:

arrow-icon  What to Do: Bicycling, bird-watching, canoeing, cave touring, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, picnicking.

arrow-icon  Facilities: Visitor center, hiking trails, book-and-gift shop, covered picnic tables, picnic tables with fire grills.

arrow-icon  Programs/Events: Daily ranger-led cave tours and talks; ranger-led nature walks, evening programs (May-October). Wildflower Day (April), cemetery workshop (October) Roots in the Cave (November).

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arrow-icon  Address: Mammoth Cave Visitor Center, 1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

arrow-icon  Directions: Choose Starting Point   national parks

arrow-icon  Number of Visitors/Year:
533,206 (Year 2018)

arrow-icon  Fees and Permits:  Access to the park is free every day of the year. Guided tours have a cost that varies between $15-20 per person. If you plan on camping in the park the cost is $20 per campsite. Camping must be coordinated with the park administration. 

  Accessibility: The park offers activities for all levels of ability. Some have full wheelchair access while others have limited or no wheelchair access.

arrow-icon  Pets: No pets are permitted in any cave with the exception of designated service animals. Pets are permitted in the Woodland Cottages but not in guest rooms at The Lodge of Mammoth Cave, Sunset Terrace, or the Hotel Cottages.

Major Attractions

A tour into the Mammoth Cave is perhaps the most popular activity. There are several tours to choose from but one needs to read through the tour description to assess if the tour is one for you. Tours require different levels of physical strength. The most popular tours offered include the Wild Cave Tour, Frozen Niagara Tour, and Violet City Lantern Tour, which is the more family-friendly and need a reservation well in advance, as it is one of the most popular tours.

Kajak and Canoe Trips. The Green and Nolin Rivers meander through the Mammoth National Park and offer superb kayak and canoe routes in the spring and summer. The calm waters of these rivers offer an awe-inspiring view of the surrounding mountains. One can also do backcountry camping at several campgrounds along these rivers. Any camping must be coordinated with the park’s administration.

Other popular activities include camping at the several campgrounds in the park, hiking the backcountry along the many trails, explore the park on a bicycle on off-road trails, take a horseback tour of the park or simply enjoy nature while having a picnic with friends or family.

Mammoth Cave National Park’s Summary Reviews

The following are summaries of actual reviews made by visitors to the Mammoth Cave National Park.

What is good:

The park is large and scenic. Many hiking trails. Trails range from easy paved (wheelchair accessible) to very strenuous and challenging.

No admission charges for above ground park trails or visitors center. The visitors center has a nice exhibit showing cave formation. Nice picnic area.

My family loved our visit to the national park. I was amazed at the size and scale of the caves. The history of this place is amazing.

I have done both the caves and a canoe trip in the river. This is a great place to go camping, hiking or even for a day visit to the caves. This is a must-do when visiting Kentucky.

The Mammoth Passage Tour was absolutely great and still very interesting. Lots of history and the tour guide was great. Well worth the $8

The mammoth passage side is cool too, it is hard to believe how massive the caverns are over there and the natural entrance is beautiful.

Miles and miles of walking, hiking, and bike trails with amazing views. The camping area is fantastic. Everyone is very friendly and no one is getting rowdy at night.

Brilliant place! large caverns with a large cave system. The cave is very unique to other caves in the country. I definitely would recommend this park for a quick stop off the highway.

We had a fantastic time exploring the caves. They have 18 tours to choose from, ranging from easy to difficult, short and long. We will definitely be back to take another tour.

Mammoth is a terrific national park to visit! There are many cave tours, including kid-friendly caves. There are campsites, cottages, and the Lodge.

The wildlife is a sight to see, as well as the caves. The tour guides are friendly and informative. It’s a treat and a must-see!

We decided on the Violet City Lantern Tour, and it was a very unique experience. I would highly recommend it!

Beautiful park! We did the Domes and Dripstones tour. It lasted 2 hours and was pretty neat. Our guide was very informative and educated on the areas of the cave where we ventured.

Jaw-dropping experience. I loved every second of this treasure. I wish we could have seen some bats though, it’s very unfortunate so many died over the years.

Try to do a couple of different tours if you have the time. I particularly recommend any of the lantern-lit tours for a different take. Or the more advanced tours that take you off the paved paths and into the more natural and less busy sections of the cave.

What is not so good:

My review covers only the “Mammoth Passage Tour”. It was the most boring cave tour I’ve ever had. Tomorrow, I’ll still have another tour but I am not expecting any wonders and yet the first impression counts. Wasted time.

Overrated, the most expensive NP ever been. The US Park Pass not valid in this national park, if you want to enter then you need to pay fees for each trail (see the picture).

The name itself nothing to do with the Mammoth’s animal & this is for branding purposes only, more appropriate if the name was related to the ‘tunnel’ since this is the longest tunnel.

Handicap tours only start at 10 am on Tuesdays (last handi friendly tour going out). Being a State Park there should be more considerate. I know the site says to book ahead….But 10 am really???

ALL THE TOURS were sold out. This is due primarily to the park having only one tour time for all of the tours we had any interest in. Also, the self-guided discovery tour is a joke… you walk into the entrance barely and walk right back out. Huge waste of our time!

Poor customer service, not enough tours, and all-around rude staff..drove 6 hours after being told we could do a walk-up tour and turns out walk-up tours sold out at 6 am….3 hours prior to my call…ugh
They stated a self-guided tour but when we went they didn’t offer the self-guided tour. Other tours were too long.

Was not advertised as it was. The cave guide was rude and condescending to the older people.
The buses had a/c and refused to turn it on when requested by some of the older people on the tour. The shops were nice that was the only good thing about this place.

It’s a waste of time and money. Rangers we’re rude and condescending to the older people on the cave tour.

I was rushed through and not allowed to enjoy the natural wonders of the cave. The only good thing about this place is the gift shop and restaurant.

Parking lot and entrance to the park was not well maintained. They should have had people directing traffic in the parking lot as it was unlike any parking lot I have ever been to.

I was very disappointed that this place is called a National Park–they would not even allow my husband a discount with the Access pass. This is definitely not a National Park that I will return to.

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