So you want to visit Mammoth Cave National Park - the longest cave system in the world - but not quite sure where to begin? No worries. With these 5 tips, you can't help but have an amazing adventure.
In summary, this tour is awesome. But it is definitely not for everyone. This tour has participants on their hands and knees, crawling through tight spaces, scaling rocks, and sweating up a storm. But it's still awesome. The tour lasts about 6 to 6.5 hours and includes a tasty lunch, which you eat inside the cave via The Snowball Room. Once your stomach is full, it's back on the trails for adventure. Your guide will give you lots of help, put your worries at ease, and even give you some history of what you see.
Expect to see the following:
- A whole lot of rock.
- Stalagmites and stalactites.
- Some of the largest underground rooms you can imagine.
- Smiles. By the end of the 6 hours, not only have you explored parts of the park no other will, you will have made some amazing friends too.
(Please note the following restrictions: The Wild Cave Tour is not for those who are afraid of heights, are claustrophobic in tight spaces, are overweight or in poor health, or those under the age of 16. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.)
Nearly 30 miles of the Green and Nolin rivers offer canoeing and kayaking - the perfect way to explore the dramatic landscape of the park. Boats may be rented outside the park at local outfitters who will gear you up for an hour, 3-hour, or even an overnight excursion. While traveling down the rivers, you will get a very different view of Mammoth Cave National Park. The land is full of dramatic bluffs, sinkholes, and stunning forests. Be sure to bring a waterproof camera for shots of wildlife, and of course, your sunscreen.
Violet City Lantern Tour
Families, take note, this one is for you. Grab the kids and explore some of the largest passageways in the cave with only the light of a lantern you carry! It's just like the first visitors did in the 1800's. Your guide will point out evidence of prehistoric mining, Native American findings, and saltpeter production. You will be surprised to see an underground hospital that was used for tuberculosis patients and to learn about mummies discovered along the trails. The tour covers 3 miles in 3 hours, so it is a slow pace with time to sit and discuss stories and illusions expressed by Ralph Waldo Emerson and check out landmarks like the Star Chamber, Broadway Avenue, Elizabeth's Dome, and more. Though there are a few hills and stairs to climb, this isn't a very strenuous tour. But keep in mind that children under the age of 6 are not allowed and neither is flash photography.
While the park offers three developed campgrounds, get away from all the visitors and enjoy the solitude of the backcountry. There are 12 peaceful and scenic backcountry campsites to choose from, which all offer something different to see. This park is much more than a cave, so get out there and see the rugged hills and woodlands of Kentucky. Rather than a bridge, the park has a mini-ferry, large enough to fit one car at a time. You drive up, you sit in your car, and you begin to move to the other side of the river. It's a 20-second ride but brings you to another side of the park, something many visitors never check out.
A few trails will take you near water, such as First Creek and Second Creek, and offer great sites to camp. Homestead is a great site to camp if you want to set up and set out on some shorter day hikes. And Collie Ridge is a good one if you want to be in the middle of all things wilderness. Keep in mind, you will need to get a free backcountry pass from the Visitor Center, and none of the ferries available can accommodate RVs, so plan accordingly.
AddressFrozen Niagara Entrance, Kentucky 42127, USA
Unlike most of the cave, this section is decorative and intricate. If you haven't guessed it, the landmark got its name for its strong resemblance to a frozen waterfall. You can explore this area by tour (Wild Cave explores it too) which takes visitors over the top of the save to the Frozen Niagara Entrance. The entrance was created in 1924 and takes visitors down into a fairyland of formations. You will descend into the Drapery Room, about 50 feet, and takes you only 1/4 of a mile in an hour. It's a slow tour, perfect for those looking for an introduction to the cave or for those with little ones.