Mammoth Cave National Park
Head to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, to explore the world’s longest known cave system, with over 400 documented miles of tunnels and passageways.
Mammoth Cave National Park’s 52,000 acres welcome visitors for myriad outdoor activities: kayaking and canoeing along the Green and Nolin rivers; biking, hiking and horseback riding through forested terrain; and camping at one of three sites or in the backcountry. Then, of course, there’s Mammoth Cave’s maw of an entrance that ushers visitors into the world’s longest known cave system, with over 400 documented miles of tunnels and passageways.
Would-be spelunkers have access to nearly 2 miles of the cave’s biggest passageways, passing historic mining structures, the famed Booth’s Ampitheatre (where an 1800s actor is said to have recited Shakespeare) and stone huts once inhabited by tuberculosis patients, when 19th century doctors mistakenly surmised that cave air might help the ill.
Outside the boundaries of the park, however, lies a region full of wonder. Cave City, located just minutes away, bustles with hobby shops, hotels and restaurants, and it — along with neighboring Hart County — abound with opportunity.
Adventurers craving more subterranean trailblazing can scratch the itch at Onyx Cave, Crystal Onyx Cave and Outlaw Cave, all located within Cave City’s limits. In nearby Horse Cave, travelers can visit Mammoth Onyx Cave and Hidden River Cave. The latter runs beneath the town, and sidewalk markers on the surface follow the path of the cave’s passageways.
Should stalactite burnout set in, Dinosaur World — Cave City’s hands-on theme park — is a hit with budding paleontologists, and Horse Cave’s Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo affords visitors a chance to see (and pet) kangaroos.
Travelers can book a lodge room at Mammoth Cave National Park or pitch a tent at the campground there. Or head to Cave City’s KOA campground, which recently installed three Conestoga wagon replicas for overnight stays.
For more information, visit nps.gov/maca.