Mammoth Cave

February 27, 2010 - 8:05pm — GettingOutside
The natural entrance to Mammoth Cave - what looms underground? Find out!
Description: 
Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley, the hilly country of south central Kentucky. This is the world's longest cave system, with more than 365 miles explored.

An early tour guide and nature enthusiast, Stephen Bishop, called the cave a "grand, gloomy and peculiar place," but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name: Mammoth.

Mammoth Cave National Park was established in 1941 to protect the unparalleled underground labyrinth of caves, the rolling hilly country above, and the Green River valley. Since then, ongoing study and exploration have shown the park to be far more complex than ever imagined, hosting a broad diversity of species living in specialized and interconnected ecosystems. The park's challenge is to balance these remarkable and sometimes fragile living networks with the public's enjoyment of them. The key to that balance is knowledge, and the park's new environmental monitoring programs will provide that understanding.

There is so much to do at the park. From cave tours to river roat rides. From camping to woods exploration and nature watching. You will not be disappointed coming here. Because the great outdoors in Kentucky are not boring, rather they are enlightening and exciting! You will walk away from a vacation to this outdoor destination feeling refreshed, renewed and respirited!

Camping at the Park

There are few better ways to discover the pleasures and curiosities of the sunlit side of Mammoth Cave National Park than to camp among the trees or by the waters. The park offers camping in three developed campgrounds and in more than a dozen primitive sites in the backcountry and along the Green and Nolin Rivers. Use the links to find out about the different campgrounds. The table below will help you choose the one that's best for you. Also be sure to check out the Campground Regulations.

FIREWOOD QUARANTINE:
Firewood from a number of states is quarantined due to an insect infestation by one or more insect pests (e.g. the Emerald Ash Borer) that is devastating certain tree species. Please help protect our forests from these destructive pests and do not bring firewood into the Park.

Mammoth Cave Campground

Located ¼ mile from the park Visitor Center, this campground includes 105 sites. Each site features a paved parking area, a picnic table, and a fire ring. The campground has restrooms, fresh water, a dump station, garbage dumpsters, and a recycling station.

There are no hookups for electricity or water. The camping fee is $17 per night per site and $8.50 for visitors with Golden Age/Golden Access passports and America The Beautiful Senior/Access Passports. No Refunds. Reservations are recommended during peak season (May 15-September 15).

NOTE: Mammoth Cave Campground is open year-round for first come, first served camping. Check-in time is 12 noon, and check-out time is 11am. A maximum of 8 persons is permitted at each site, and campers may stay a maximum of 14 days in a calendar year. Showers, operated by the park concessioner, are open daily March 1-November 30, 6am-10pm, $2/10min. Showers are located behind the Service Center adjacent to the campground. Emergency phone numbers, and announcements regarding park activities, are posted at the bulletin board at the campground entrance.
 
Group Sites
are available at Mammoth Cave Campground

Mammoth Cave Campground also offers 4 sites to accommodate groups, with limit of 16 campers per site. Each site has paved parking, picnic tables, and a fire ring. $20/night/site. No discount offered on group camping. Check-in time is 12 noon, and check-out time is 11am. No refunds. Reservations are recommended during peak season (May 15 through September 14).  During non-peak season, you may call the campground at 270-758-2424.

Houchins Ferry Campground

Located 15 miles from the park Visitor Center on the south bank of the Green River, this campground includes 12 sites. Each site has a picnic table and a fire grate. The campground has chemical toilets, fresh water, and an adjacent picnic shelter.

This campground is not suitable for large trailers or RVs.
(But if you own one and your coming here, you're in luck, see below Green River Ferry campsite details)

The camping fee is $12 per night per site and $6 for visitors with Golden Age/Golden Access and America The Beautiful Senior/Access passports. No refunds. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The ferry operates from 10:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily from March 4 - November except when repairs or hazardous river conditions prevent operation.

Green River Ferry - The RV Friendly Campground at Mammoth Cave NP

Located 6 miles from the Visitor Center and 3 miles north of the Green River Ferry, this campground has 7 sites.;  Each site has multiple picnic tables and fire rings. All the neccessary RV hookups are found here; at this campsite: chemical toilets, garbage dumpsters, and fresh water are available.

Three of these sites are group sites with a 24/person limit, fee $30 per night per site.

Four of the Maple Springs sites are Equestrian sites with hitching posts and trailer parking, limit 8 horses/site. Two of these sites have water/eletric hook-ups, fee $30 per night per site. Two sites without hook-ups, fee $22 per night per site.

No discount for visitors with Golden Age/Golden Access or America the Beautiful Senior/Access Passports. No refunds. Reservations are required. Maple Springs Campground check-in time is 12 noon and check-out time is 11am.

Cave Touring

Mammoth Cave National Park Spring Season schedule lasts from March 13 - May 28, 2010.  The tours of Mammoth Cave listed below are currently available during this season. If you would like to see a complete list of tours we offer at various times through the year, click here.

The Entrance to the Mammoth Cave - Courtey of National Parks Service and Mammoth Cave NP

Here's the description of one of tours of the cooler caves, the River Styx Cave:

"Trace the stages of cave development from solid layers of limestone into the world’s longest known cave system. Follow the course of the water from ridge top to river bottom and witness the persistence and power required to create this geologic marvel. Experience some of the largest continuous canyon passages on the planet, smooth elliptical tubes and beautifully sculpted shafts. Working your way to the cave’s lowest level you’ll be able to peer into the cold river water that still hollows out the limestone and lengthens the cave system. Understand the processes of both the surface and subsurface and realize how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together to make the story of the world’s longest cave unfold before your eyes." - From NPS.  Sounds pretty spectacular, huh!

Here's a complete list of all the various tours (and length) available:

(For Complete Details go to the NPS Webpage for this park!)

  • Historic Tour (2 hours, 2 miles)
  • Mammoth Passage Tour (1¼ hours, ¾ mile round trip)
  • New Entrance Tour (2 hours, ¾ mile)
  • Frozen Niagara Tour (1¼ hours, ¼ mile round trip)
  • Grand Avenue Tour (4½ hours, 4 miles)
  • Snowball Tour (3 hours, 2 miles)
  • Violet City Lantern Tour (3 hours, 3 miles)
  • Star Chamber Tour (2½ hours, 1¾ miles)
  • Wild Cave Tour (6 to 6½ hours, 5½ miles)
  • Introduction to Caving Tour (3 to 3½ hours, 1 mile)
  • Trog (2½ hours, 1 ½ miles)
  • Mammoth Cave Discovery Tour (30-minute minimum, ¾ mile round trip from visitor center)
  • Washington's Pit in Mammoth Cave (30-minute minimum, ¾ mile round trip from visitor center)

There are beautiful areas of the park aboveground too!

You can enjoy all of the following activities on the waters of Mammoth Cave National Park

  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking (There are Local Outfitters)
  • Fishing
  • Riverside Camping
  • Swimming

Now that's a lot to do in the water. Better stay for a long weekend or more!

Over 30 miles of the Green and Nolin Rivers trace through the park and offer a wealth of recreational opportunities. Angle for muskellunge, bluegill, catfish, bass, perch, crappie, and other game fish. Canoe the rivers looking for wildlife, springs and river bluffs. Camp on islands or in the floodplain, or by the river at the Houchins Ferry Campground. Cross the Green River on two ferries – Green River Ferry and Houchins Ferry – two of the few operating rural ferries in the nation.

Trail Hiking and Walking is also popular here:

Mammoth Cave National Park contains more than 70 miles of backcountry trails through forested Kentucky hills for hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists. Several frontcountry trails lead to special places like Cedar Sink, Sand Cave, and Turnhole Bend.

There are more than 30 trails of varying difficulty levels. So no matter what kind of shape you are in, you will find a trail that will be exactly what you are looking for! Exercise, wildlife, peace and solace. You'll find it all in the beautiful preserved country of Kentucky.

Equestrians are Welcome and Supported by NPS at Mammoth Cave!

Sixty miles of trails north of the Green River are open for horseback riding. Day-use horseback riders can park trailers:

  • At Lincoln Trailhead
  • Across the road from the Maple Springs Campground bulletin board
  • At Maple Springs Trailhead
  • 1/4 mile north of Maple Springs Campground At Good Springs Church.
  • Please note that Sal Hollow Trail is closed to horses.

A free trail map is available in the Backcountry Map & Guide, the park newspaper, and other maps and guides sold at the Visitor Center show topographic features and trails in greater detail.

Several rules apply to all horseback riders using the park:

  • When hikers and horses meet, horses must be slowed to a walk and hikers must remain quiet.
  • Always hitch horses more than 100 feet away from designated campsites, trails or water sources.

If you plan to camp overnight in the park with horses, the following information applies: Overnight horseback riders can use Maple Springs Group Campground, located five miles from the Visitor Center and three miles north of the Green River Ferry. The most direct route requires crossing the Green River Ferry, a free ferry with an 8 ton load limit. However, some vehicles (i.e. long horse trailers) cannot be ferried solely because of the length or ground clearance. The Green River Ferry is open daily from 6:00 AM - 9:55 PM (except when closed for repairs or during hazardous river conditions). Alternate routes via state and county roads are available and may be more practical for trailers.

Maple Springs Group Campground has seven sites, and four of them are equipped for horseback riders. Specific rules apply to horseback riders using campsites at Maple Springs:

  • Sites 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Maple Springs are designed to accommodate horses. Do not use any of the other Maple Springs Campground sites if you are camping with horses.
  • Park vehicles only at the gravel spaces located at each campsite. If you need additional parking, use the parking area across the road from the bulletin board.
  • Dispose of horse manure by scattering it in the woods at least 200 feet behind the campsites.
  • Picket areas are located behind sites 1, 2, 3 and 4. You must use these facilities to tie up your horses. Never tie horses to trees.
  • The central grassy area is for amphitheater and recreational use only. Do not let your horses use the area.
  • Do not allow your horses near the water spigots in the campground. You must pack water to your horses for drinking or bathing.
  • Water hoses can be attached to water spigots temporarily, but do not leave hoses attached.

Directions to Mammoth Cave National Park

From the North: Take Interstate 65 to Exit 53 (Cave City Exit). Turn right onto KY-70. Follow 70/255 as it becomes the Mammoth Cave Parkway in the park. Follow the Mammoth Cave Parkway to the Visitor Center.

From the South: Take Interstate 65 to Exit 48 (Park City Exit). Turn left onto KY-255 and follow 255 as it becomes the Park City Road into the park. Follow Park City Road until it joins the Mammoth Cave Parkway; turn left. Follow the Mammoth Cave Parkway to the Visitor Center.

GPS Coordinates:

  • Lat/Long:   N 37° 11' 13.115'' | W 86° 06' 05.197''
  • Decimal Degrees:  +37.186976 | -86.101444
  • UTM (Zone 16N, NAD83):  579779.491 | 4115977.605 m


NOTE:  Commercial vehicles are prohibited on the park's roads.

Location

Mammoth Cave National Park Mammoth Cave, KY, 42259
United States
Phone: 270-758-2180
37° 12' 48.9528" N, 86° 9' 17.3772" W
Mammoth Cave
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