Journey toward the center of the earth as you discover the world’s largest known cave system, one of Kentucky’s great hidden secrets.
Explore grand, high-ceilinged underground rooms and investigate remarkable limestone formations at Mammoth Cave National Park. Spot strange eyeless creatures that are unique to this mysterious labyrinth. Return to the surface to find a pretty woodland full of colorful plants and lively animals.
Join a guided tour leaving from the park’s visitor center to enter the caves. With nearly 400 miles (640 kilometers) of surveyed passageways, this is certainly not an adventure to embark on alone. The ranger who accompanies you will provide fascinating information about the caves. One of the more bizarre stories to have emerged is that of Doctor Croghan who brought 16 tuberculosis patients here in the winter of 1842, believing (incorrectly) that the cool air and low light would heal their condition.
As you venture into the darkness, see the luminous shapes of limestone stalagmites and stalactites. Peer into seemingly bottomless holes and marvel as the ranger illuminates the cave with the sparking of a match. Listen to the soft fluttering of bats overhead and gaze into shallow pools where tiny white crayfish and shrimp live in the permanent gloom.
With the distant sunlight beckoning you toward the surface, head to the tranquil surroundings of Big Woods. Here long walking paths twist and turn between oak and hickory trees. Bask in the warm air as you admire hawks and bald eagles overhead. Walk quietly for the best chance of encountering deer, possums and raccoons.
Mammoth Cave National Park is in central Kentucky, a 1.5-hour drive from Louisville, Kentucky or Nashville, Tennessee. The park is open year-round. Park entrance is free, but fees are charged for cave tours and camping and some picnic shelters. Trips into the caves are by guided tour only, with various lengths of walk designed to suit everyone. Choices vary by season. Select the type of tour you want and book in advance online to guarantee availability during your visit.
While some U.S. national parks offer views of soaring mountains and others, like Mammoth Cave National Park, display their treasures underground, every one provides affordable adventure choices for all types of travelers.