Mammoth Cave National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Four thousand years ago, Mammoth Cave was discovered by man for the very first time. It was quite a discovery, but for thousands of years afterward, it was left untouched. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that people began to take interest in it once again.

Mammoth Cave National Park, established in 1941, is known for the world’s longest cave system--400 miles of it that has been explored so far. The caves are the biggest attraction, but that’s not all you’ll find here. This park also features the Green River Valley and beautiful rolling country hills. There are also two rivers - Green River and Nolan River - that will provide you with excellent opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and much more. With everything that nature has to offer, you can be sure that you’ll make stunning new discoveries when you go RV camping here.

The weather in Kentucky and within the park tends to be moderate. Summers are pretty warm, winters are fairly cool, and about 46 inches of rain is expected each year. Most of this rain falls during the springtime. If you go in the summer, be prepared for weather that’s brought up by the Gulf of Mexico. No matter what time of the year you wish to visit this park, you can be guaranteed that it’ll be open. This park stays open year-round, with the exception of Christmas Day. Anytime is a good time to bring your RV to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Park Alerts (3)

[Caution] Watch for river hazards – wear your life vest

Within the park, river users on Nolin River and Green River will encounter downed trees. Life jackets must to be worn at all times. No floodplain camping on Nolin River or below Turnhole Bend (river mile 193) on Green River.

[Park Closure] Green River Ferry Area Closure August 5 - November 15, 2019 [+ Info]

The Green River Ferry Area will be closed from 8/05/19 - 11/15/19 due to a number of projects occurring to facilitate traffic movement and improve the site. For full details of the project work please click the more link below.

[Caution] Park Wide Burn Restriction

Due to elevated forest fire danger, a burn restriction has been placed on all open fires effective immediately. This applies to campfires in the park’s three front country campgrounds and all backcountry campsites.

RV Rentals in Mammoth Cave National Park

Transportation in Mammoth Cave National Park

Driving

It has been found that GPS and Google Maps tends to take a long way around to get into the park. There are two ways that work best. If you’re coming from the north, you can take Interstate 65 to Exit 53, then turn right onto KY-70 and stay on 70/255 until you arrive. If you’re coming from the south, you can take Interstate 65 to Exit 48, then turn left on KY-255 and stay on 255 until you get to the park. Once here, there are various roads and parkways to take you through the park.

Parking

There are a few sites available for RV campers at the park. There is also parking at the visitor center and at overlooks on the parkways. If you can, take the car instead when traveling throughout the park. This way, it’s both easier to get around, and there is more room for other visitors.

Public Transport

There are other ways that you can get around the park besides driving a car. For instance, you can take the Green River Ferry or the Houchin Ferry. You can also take your bicycle through the certain parts of the park, or even go horseback riding if you’re up for it.

Campgrounds and parking in Mammoth Cave National Park

Campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park

Reservations camping

Horse Cave KOA

Just seven miles from Mammoth Cave National Park, and open all year round, the dog-friendly Horse Cave KOA is a perfect place to stay for aspiring rock and spelunking lovers of any degree, and anyone else looking for a relaxing, peaceful place to set up camp. Unwind in a space where kids can play in the pool during the summer months or enjoy endless entertainment at the mini golf course. Purchase firewood on the campground for last minute fires or a Friday night fish fry. The shaded, pull-through RV sites can accommodate rigs up to 60 feet and offer 50-amp electrical hookups. Fit the entire family under the pavilion for gatherings where you can plan a journey to Mammoth Cave National Park or take a Wild Cave tour.

Bowling Green KOA

A gateway to the incredible Mammoth Cave National Park and Lost River Cave, the Bowling Green KOA offers amazing camping and fishing with its spring-fed lakes. This campground features holiday cookouts, weekend activities, live entertainment, a 100-seat conference center, and pool parties. Wi-Fi is available at most sites, and other amenities include bike rentals, laundry facilities, cable TV hookups, a snack bar and miniature golf. Firewood and propane are also available for purchase on the campground.

Maple Springs Group Campground

This campground is perfect for groups and is strictly for reservations only. There are a total of eight reservable sites and out of those, 2 are specifically for RVs. While there may be no showers, laundry facilities or dump stations, these two sites do offer RV hookups, which is rare to find at most National Parks. Your RV is also allowed to be up to 40 feet in length when you camp at here. These RV sites are limited and must be reserved, but the effort of putting in a reservation is worth it for the RV length they allow, along with the hookups provided. You can make your reservations online only from March 1st to November 30th.

Mammoth Cave Campground

Located only about a quarter mile from the Visitor Center is Mammoth Cave Campground. About half of this campground is reservable. This includes Loops A and B, which consists of 53 campsites. The other 52 sites at Mammoth Cave Campground are first-come, first-serve. Out of all of these sites, only six are suitable for RVs though, so it’s recommended that you make reservations. You can book ahead for your RV online from May 1st through October 15th. When you bring your RV, be sure that it is less than 38 feet in length, as this is the limit for the camp sites. No electric or water hookups are available, except for VIP sites located here. There is a dump station nearby though, available at the nearby service center. You’ll also have access to flush toilets, potable water, and a laundry facility.

First-come first-served

Mammoth Cave Camground

There are plenty of first-come, first-served campgrounds and camping areas, but they are only for tent camping. Mammoth Cave Campground is the only place in the park that offers first-come, first-served RV campsites but it’s better to make reservations if you plan to camp here - there are only 6 sites that are RV accessible.

Alternate camping

The Lodge at Mammoth Cave

If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s a little on the higher end, look into The Lodge at Mammoth Cave. Comfort and relaxation can be found here, as well as restaurants and shops that you can visit - all without ever having to leave the park. Check out the yummy Spelunkers Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor, or go have an amazing dinner at the Green River Grill. The Lodge is the best place to be able to come back to after a long tiring day spent in the park. You’ll be able to get a great night’s sleep and be ready to do it all again the next day.

Tent Camping

There are a variety of options for tent camping within Mammoth Cave National Park. Both Mammoth Cave and Maple Springs Group Campground offer tent camping sites, and so does Houchin Ferry Campground. So if you want to find a spot to park the RV, Houchin Ferry Campground has 12 primitive tent sites to choose from and is available all year. You can also choose to go backcountry or riverside camping. There are 13 backcountry campsites to choose from, and you’ll be guaranteed peace and quiet in the abundant nature. Just be sure to get a permit before you head out, and take all of the necessary precautions to stay safe. Always boil water before drinking it, and keep all food well sealed away to prevent animal attraction.

Seasonal activities in Mammoth Cave National Park

Spring

Evening Programs

Evening programs are held at the Park Amphitheater, usually just after dark. Here, a park ranger will talk about different subjects depending on the night. These evening programs are perfect for people of all ages, and are wheelchair accessible as well. These can be a great way to end a full day at the park.

Porch Talk

The Porch Talk ranges on a variety of subjects depending on the date and time. Whatever it is, you can be sure that it’ll be informational and entertaining all at the same time. This is a great place to join in on an interesting conversation with a ranger that knows what they’re talking about, without having to go out of your way to catch them.

Echo River Springs Walk

Echo River is an underground river inside Mammoth Cave that surfaces as a beautiful spring near Green River, and is a wonderful sight to see. Get to learn all about it as a ranger guides you along the trail. Being only a quarter mile, this trail is easy and fun for everyone and is even wheelchair accessible.

Heritage Walk

This walk is also wheelchair accessible, and is located close to Mammoth Cave Hotel. Being only three quarters of a mile long, this is a lovely place to go for a stroll. Enjoy 45 minutes of rich history and hear about tales of the old Mammoth Cave Estate, and get to see the Old Guides Cemetary when you when you take the Heritage Walk.

Sand Cave Almanac Caravan

Learn about the time Floyd Collins got trapped in the Sand Cave in 1925, and even get to see his family’s home and his grave site on this exciting walking and driving tour. The tour begins at Sand Cave Trailhead and ends at Mammoth Cave, totaling 5.2 driving miles. This adventure packs quite a bit of knowledge and fun in just two hours--and it’s wheelchair accessible, making it available to everyone.

Summer

Junior Ranger Nature Track

This activity is great for kids to be able to learn all about the park in a fun and interactive way. From all the plants and wildlife within the park to the intricate cave systems and diverse ecosystem, there’s lots for the children to learn with the park rangers.

Boating

With Green River and Nolin River readily available in the park, this is a great place to go boating, kayaking, and canoeing. There are plenty of liveries outside the park that offer rentals. Just be sure before you take any kind of boat out that you’re prepared for strong currents and have a proper flotation device with you.

Bicycling

The park is a great place to bring your bike, and street bikes are allowed on all public paved roads here. If you’re looking for something a little off-road, there are two trails that are specifically for biking. Big Hollow Trail is one of them, totaling 9.1 miles. The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail is another one, reaching 9 miles total - just a little shorter than Big Hollow.

Horseback Riding

This park is perfect for going horseback riding. There are over 60 miles of trails open for horseback riders just north of Green River, so you can be sure to find a trail that works well for you and your horse. There are even places to keep your horse trailer when you go.

Fishing

Summer is a great time to go fishing at Mammoth Cave National Park. Bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and muskellunge are popular catches, but there are also many other species to be found in the waters here. You can go fishing at Green River, Nolin River, and even First Creek Lake, and you might find something different at each spot.

Fall

Violet City Lantern Tour

This tour is truly a unique experience. Here you’ll be guided through the cave by lantern light only, mimicking what it was like for people in the days of old, when they were coming through the caves. Remember when you go that this tour is considered strenuous, and precaution such as watching you step need to be made.

Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour

This tour is a fantastic way to be sure that everyone is included in the fun. Due to limited maximum numbers of people allowed in at once, there must be at least once handicapped person in your group in order to take this tour. This is a great and beautiful tour to take in Mammoth Cave.

Domes and Dripstones Tour

This tour is a moderate level of difficulty too, with a total of 500 stairs. Every step is worth it though, to see the breathtaking natural cave formations. Get to see it all as you walk through the cave: pits, domes, and giant trunks of dripstones created over time by water. There is a reason why this tour is one of the most popular.

Historic Tour

This tour features what is known as “classic” Mammoth Cave, taking you through the same places that well-known celebrities, writers, military figures, and scientists have walked through. Be prepared for a moderate difficulty level when you go - this tour takes you 2 total miles, with 440 stairs to take on the way.

Frozen Niagra Tour

This tour is a great first tour to take when visiting the park for the first time with children or elderly family members. While the walk may only be a quarter of a mile long, this tour feature a magnificent cave formation that resembles Niagara Falls frozen in time.

Winter

Discovery Tour

The Discovery Tour, unlike the others, is completely self-guided. You can see one of the largest rooms in the cave system - the Rotunda - and walk through a great canyon passage. If you have any questions, there are rangers outside ready and willing to give answers. There is so much history to learn in this area.

Star Chamber

Like the Violet City Lantern Tour, Star Chamber is a tour done by lantern light only as well. This tour is labeled as moderate and has 200 total stairs to be climbed. Immerse yourself in the dark history of the Mammoth Caves and truly get an understanding of what life was like in the 1800’s here.

Dining in the Park

Within Mammoth Cave National Park, there are two great places to eat at. Spelunkers Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor is a perfect place to chill out at while enjoying a snack or drink. The Green River Grill is the place to be for a nice dinner with friends or family.

Wild Cave Tour

If you’re looking for a challenge, consider taking the Wild Cave Tour. Bring your best lace-up hiking boots to get ready to hike, crawl, squeeze and climb your way through Mammoth Cave. This tour is extremely strenuous and physically demanding, but some may find it very rewarding to have accomplished such a feat.

Grand Avenue Tour

This tour is labeled as “very strenuous,” so this is something to be taken into consideration before entering the cave. That being said, this is a great way to fully dive deep into the cave and finally understand its namesake of “Mammoth.” This cave tour may leave you feeling small and in awe of the universe.

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