Mammoth Cave —the longest tunnel cave system in the world—formed over 10 million years ago, but wasn’t designated as an official US national park until July 1, 1941. The cave earned its name for both the size of its massive caverns and its hundreds of miles of explorable passageways. Within the cave’s 412 miles of explored tunnels, visitors can choose from a variety of cave tours (from self-led to twinkling lanterns to wheelchair and kiddo accessible). Above ground, head to Mammoth for hiking, horseback riding, and camping within the park’s more than 52,000 acres of scenic Kentucky landscape. The Green and Nolin Rivers run through the park, giving guests ample opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing.
Where is Mammoth Cave National Park?
Mammoth Cave National Park is tucked amongst the rolling hills of south-central Kentucky’s gorgeous green countryside, just 35 miles northeast of Bowling Green and 90 miles south of Louisville. The park is surrounded by kitschy roadside attractions and is only a short drive from Kentucky’s famed bourbon distilleries.
Mammoth Cave Facts
Thanks to its underground location, Mammoth Cave is only mildly affected by the changing seasons. Temperatures hover around 54°F year-round. Over the years, the Mammoth Cave has been used as a church, wedding venue, and tuberculosis hospital. Today, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system, with much more still to be explored.
Mammoth Cave Weather
Because of its steady year-round temperature, a tour of Mammoth Cave serves as a cool retreat in the summer and a warm welcome in the winter. Of course, most of the activities on the 53,000 acres of land above the park are best enjoyed May through September when Kentucky’s temperatures are best suited for being outdoors. Mammoth Cave’s busiest months are June, July, and August.
Hours of Operation
The grounds of Mammoth Cave National Park are open 24-hours a day, 365-days a year. The Mammoth Cave visitor center, which serves as the departure point for cave tours, is typically open from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, but from October 26 through March 6 and on holidays, they’re open from 8:30AM to 4:30PM. Most campground reservations and cave tours can be booked online, but in-person assistance is only available during these times.
Mammoth Cave Entrance Fee
There is no fee to enter Mammoth Cave National Park. Most activities, like hiking and biking, are free. Cave tour prices vary from $6 to $60 for adults. There are five days a year that are designated as “fee-free” days for all U.S. National Parks and Mammoth Cave offers a limited number of free cave tours on those dates.
Directions to Mammoth Cave
From Louisville, Kentucky, take Interstate 65 South to Exit 53 for Cave City. Turn right off the exit onto KY-70 and continue straight on as it becomes Mammoth Cave Parkway. Follow the Mammoth Cave Parkway to the visitor center. The physical address is: 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, 42259.
Mammoth Cave Lodging
Mammoth Cave Airbnb
There are a number of rustic cabins, historic homes, and bed & breakfast Airbnb options available in the Mammoth Cave area. The best way to find something close to the park is to search for “Mammoth Cave” in the location bar and use the map feature to determine each location’s distance from the park (many will also give this information in the description). Cell service near the cave can be spotty, so check the details to ensure the host has wi-fi if that is important for your trip.
Mammoth Cave Hotels
Mammoth Cave Camping
- Horse Cave KOA
- Jellystone Park Mammoth Cave
- Houchin Ferry Campground
- River Island Camping
- Mammoth Cave Campground
- Maple Springs Group Campground
- Backcountry and Riverside Camping
- Mammoth Cave Horse Camp
- Rock Cabin Camping
- Double J Stables
Mammoth Cave Tours
Mammoth Cave offers a variety of tours for all ages and experience levels. Their most popular tours are the Historic Tour and the Frozen Niagra, both of which give guests an up-close look at the massive tunnels and unique formations that made Mammoth Cave famous.
The Wild Cave Tour is Mammoth’s longest and most strenuous tour, and it’s only recommended for experienced cave explorers. Mammoth Cave also offers an accessible tour that uses an elevator instead of stairs and a kids-only tour for little adventurers. Tour availability is limited and advance reservations are recommended.
Mammoth Cave Hiking
If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of 14 of our favorite hiking trails near Mammoth Cave National Park.
- Heritage Trail
- Historic Entrance Trail
- Echo River Springs Trail
- Sinkhole Trail
- Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail
- Cedar Sink Trail
- First Creek Lake Trail
- Turnhole Bend Nature Trail
- Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk
- Sand Cave Trail
Best Things to Do Near Mammoth Cave
Located just outside of Mammoth Cave National Park, Dinosaur World offers the chance for families to wander among hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs. This is a hands-on experience with interactive exhibits and plenty of outdoor play spots. Dinosaur World is also a dog-friendly attraction for well-behaved, leash-trained pups.
Head to Big Mike’s Rock and Gift Shop (Kentucky’s largest gift shop!) for an out-of-this-world collection of rocks, geodes, crystals, and fossils. If you’re into wacky roadside attractions, you can pose with a giant Mosasaurus, or pay $2 to enter the kooky Mystery House and “experience the unexplainable.”
Spelunkers Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor is the snack spot in Mammoth Cave. In addition to Kentucky-made ice cream and tons of sweet treats, their breakfast and lunch menu includes diner-style breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit parfaits, sandwiches, burgers, and more.
Kentucky Down Under is an Australia-themed animal park located in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Visitors can try their hand at gem mining, stroll through the open “outback” where kangaroos and emus roam freely, and feed a huge family of Lorikeets.
Kentucky’s famous Green River winds through Mammoth Cave National park, and a canoe trip with Green River Canoeing is the best way to experience it. Green River Canoeing offers a variety of kayak and canoe trips ranging in length from three hours to two nights or more. The rivers are calm and easy to paddle, making this the perfect activity for paddlers of all experience levels.
The Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum in Cave City is home to over 14,000 square feet of exhibit area featuring rare and exotic animals, marine life, insects, birds and more.
The Mammoth Cave Railroad played an important role in bringing more tourism to Mammoth Cave during it’s early development. Today, the remaining steam engines tell the story of life in Kentucky over a century ago. While you won’t find any moving train cars, visitors can still travel by foot or bicycle on the rail path as the abandoned line was converted to the Mammoth Cave Bike and Hike Trail in 2004.
Mammoth Cave’s Old Guide’s Cemetery is the burial place of Stephen Bishop: one of the region’s first cave guides. Bishop was a Black American man who spent almost 20 years guiding cave tours of Mammoth Cave, first as an enslaved guide, and then as a free man. Stephen went on to make major discoveries during his time as a guide, and stories of his findings are still told to those who visit today.
Double J Stables and campgrounds offers guided horseback rides along the trails found inside of Mammoth Cave National Park. With exclusive access to over 85 acres of trails in the park, Double J promises an experience found nowhere else.
The Green River Ferry, first developed in 1934, is the final remaining active river ferry in the entire park. The ferry carries vehicles, hikers and bikers across the Green River 364 days a year.
From horseback riding and golfing to zip-lining and go-carting, there’s fun for everyone at Kentucky Action Park. The park is most famous for its riding stables, the Jesse James Riding Stables, where anyone (aged 2 to 92, according to the website!) can enjoy a guided trail ride through cave country where outlaws like Jesse James once roamed.