Mammoth Cave National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Known as longest cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave National Park is an exceptionally unique national park that is a great destination for RV lovers. Located in Edmonson, Hart, and Barren counties within the state of Kentucky, the caves were first discovered four thousand years ago. It was quite a discovery, but for thousands of years afterward, the caves were left untouched. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that people began to take interest in them once again.

Mammoth Cave National Park was officially established in 1941 and 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 (the 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 visit the park.

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.

Whether this is your first time in an RV or you are a very experienced camper, you will be very happy with the campgrounds at Mammoth Cave National Park. There are two RV friendly campgrounds that feature primitive sites large enough to cater for RVs up to 40 feet in length. The 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, so stop thinking about it and do it!

Park Alerts (2)

[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 Until Early Spring 2020 [+ Info]

The Green River Ferry Area will be closed until early spring 2020 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.

RV Rentals in Mammoth Cave National Park

Transportation in Mammoth Cave National Park

Driving

Mammoth Cave National Park is located just under an hour from Bowling Green, KY. It's situated about halfway between Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN. Getting to and from Mammoth Cave National Park is relatively easy, however, it has been found that GPS tend to take a long way around to get into the park. There are two ways that work best to access the park. 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 parking areas available for RV campers at the park, including at the visitor center and at overlooks on the parkways. If you can, take the car 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 or RV. For instance, you can take the Green River Ferry or the Houchin Ferry. You can also take your bicycle through 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

Bowling Green KOA

If you are wanting to stay in a move developed area you should consider staying at Bowling Green KOA. A gateway to the incredible Mammoth Cave National Park and Lost River Cave, the Bowling Green KOA is around 30 miles from the caves and offers amazing camping and fishing with its spring-fed lakes.

The sites at Bowling Green KOA are all full hookups for those traveling in RVs and are available as pull-thru and patio sites. This campground has many great amenities, including 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. Reservations are a must as the campground is very popular.

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 those wanting to be close to the park and have more RV site options. The campground is known for being a very relaxing place and has some great facilities for you to enjoy.

There are shaded, pull-through RV sites that are available in either full hookup or water and electric hookup variants. The sites are great for larger rigs as they can accommodate RVs up to 60 feet long. Other amenities in the campground include a pool, catch and release fishing pond, mini-golf course, basketball and volleyball courts, jump pillow, toilets, showers, and a dump station. You can also purchase firewood at the campground and you should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major networks.

If you are considering staying at Horse Cave KOA we recommend that you book a reservation in advance to avoid disappointment. Horse Cave KOA is open all year round.

Maple Springs Group Campground

Located six miles from the Visitor Center and three miles north of Green River Ferry, Maple Springs Group Campground is built for those wanting to do some group camping during their visit to Mammoth Cave National Park.

There are a total of eight reservable sites in this campground, however only two of these are specifically for RVs. The two RV sites can support rigs up to 40 feet in length and feature water and electric hookups. The sites at this campground are open for equestrians as horses are permitted. Each site provides a picnic table and fire ring. Potable water is available during the peak season.

Please note that there are no showers, laundry facilities, or dump stations at Maple Springs Group Campground. You will also not be able to get phone reception at this campground or internet connectivity. You can make your reservations online only from March 1st to November 30th. Generators are permitted, except during quiet hours.

Mammoth Cave Campground

Located only about a quarter-mile from the Visitor Center, Mammoth Cave Campground is the main camping area for those wanting to stay within the park boundaries. There are a total of 111 campsites within Mammoth Cave Campground that are separated into three different loops.

All of the sites besides two are primitive and do not have any hookups available to use. Two sites (known as the VIP sites) do have hookups available. This is by far the most developed campground, and it can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet in length. Other amenities at Mammoth Cave Campground include toilets, showers, laundry facilities, a camp store, an amphitheater, and a dump station.

You can book ahead and reserve a spot at 53 of the campground's sites from May 1st through to October 15th. Mammoth Cave Campground is open all year round. Generators are permitted, except during quiet hours.

First-come first-served

Mammoth Cave Camground

Mammoth Cave Campground offers 52 first-come, first-served RV campsites, but it’s better to make reservations if you plan to camp here as there are only six sites that are RV accessible. If you want to tent camp there will be many more first-come, first-served campgrounds and camping areas for you to choose from.

Alternate camping

The Lodge at Mammoth Cave

If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s a little on the more luxurious side, check out 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 if you stay at the Lodge.

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 if you are seeking a little more adventure. 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

Birding

Above the famous caves, there are some great opportunities for those who love to birdwatch. The mostly forested areas offer the birds in and around the park a perfect place to call home, and the Green River attracts songbirds, such as the Cerulean warbler, Kentucky warbler, Eastern bluebird, and Summer tanager. There are plenty of other birds you can spot as well, including the American robin, goldfinch, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and hawks.

Evening Programs at Park Amphitheater

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 ADA-accessible as well. These can be a great way to end a full day at the park, so check them out!

Porch Talk

The Porch Talks are special events held at Mammoth Cave National Park that vary in subject matter, depending on the date and time. Whatever talk is happening, 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 about cave formations, cave geology, and natural history of the area.

Echo River Springs Walk

Echo River is an underground river inside Mammoth Cave that surfaces as a beautiful spring near Green River. This is a wonderful sight to see and is a great place to go on a ranger-led walk. The walk is only a quarter-mile so the trail is easy and fun for everyone, including those in wheelchairs.

Heritage Walk

Located close to Mammoth Cave Hotel, the Heritage Walk at Mammoth Cave National Park is a lovely ADA-accessible place for you to go for a stroll since it is only around three-quarters of a mile long. On the trail, you will enjoy 45 minutes of rich history and hear about tales of the old Mammoth Cave Estate, and you will also get to see the Old Guides Cemetery when you take the Heritage Walk.

Sand Cave Almanac Caravan Tour

Located near the main visitor center, this tour will inform you about the time explorer Floyd Collins got trapped in the Sand Cave in 1925. The tour begins at Sand Cave Trailhead and ends at Mammoth Cave, totaling 5.2 miles. This adventure packs quite a bit of knowledge and fun in just two hours, including getting to see his family’s home and grave site. The tour is also wheelchair accessible, making it available to everyone.

Summer

Picnicking

Mammoth Cave National Park is a great place to pack a lunch and have a relaxing picnic. There are three picnic shelters available at the park, two of which are reservable online so that you can guarantee a spot. Some of the amenities at the shelters include electric hookups, picnic tables, and the ability to hold up to 60 people. Soak in views of the Green River Valley or enjoy a scenic meal before you head down the Dixon Cave Trail.

Horseback Riding

Mammoth Cave National 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 are out on the trails.

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 are lots for the children to learn with help from the fantastic 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. 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, which totals around nine miles. The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail is the other one, which is just a little shorter than Big Hollow.

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

Visitor Center

The Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor Center should be the first stop once you arrive at the park. Checking into the visitor center is a great way to find out what's happening in the park, including if there are any special events or closures that you should know about. You can check out interactive exhibits and watch a short orientation film. The visitor center at Mammoth Cave National Park is open every day except for Christmas.

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, so watch your step.

Mammoth Cave Accessible Tour

This tour is a fantastic way to be sure that everyone is included in the fun. Transportation or mobility assistive devices are permitted on this tour, but they are not provided by the park. This beautiful two-hour tour within the Mammoth Cave is a half-mile long, and there are no stairs. You'll get a chance to see gypsum formations and the famous Snowball Room.

Domes and Dripstones Cave Tour

This tour is a moderate level of difficulty with a total of 500 stairs. Every step is worth it though thanks to the breathtaking natural cave formations, 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, go find out for yourself why!

Historic Cave 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 is two miles long, with 440 stairs to take on the way.

Frozen Niagra Cave 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-mile long, this tour features a magnificent cave formation that resembles Niagara Falls frozen in time.

Winter

Cave Sing

If you happen to be visiting Mammoth Cave National Park during the first Sunday in December, you can attend the annual Cave Sing, which is a festive event to celebrate the holidays. Head to Mammoth Cave where you can listen to Christmas carols sung by the Caveman Chorus while gathered around a ten-foot Christmas tree. Afterwards, you can head to the Lodge at Mammoth Cave for some snacks and a chance to meet with Santa Claus!

Discovery Cave Tour

The Discovery Tour, unlike the others at Mammoth National Park, is completely self-guided. The tour enables you to 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 and this tour is one of the most popular.

Star Chamber Cave Tour

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 1800s on this tour.

Dining in the Park

Within Mammoth Cave National Park there are a few different places where you can eat if you are feeling peckish. Two spots that are great for snacks are the cafe and the ice cream parlor. If you are looking for a larger meal, check out the grill restaurant.

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 the challenge is worth the reward and you will feel very accomplished.

Grand Avenue Cave Tour

Described as a very strenuous hike, the Grand Avenue Cave Tour is a great experience for those who can handle longer walks. The tour is a great way to fully dive deep into the cave and understand its namesake of “Mammoth.” This cave tour may leave you feeling in awe of the universe and lasts around four hours.

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