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Monday, July 18, 2022

Tips for Visiting Mammoth Cave


We just got back from a trip to Mammoth Cave and want to share some of the tips we learned with you!


  • DOWNLOAD MAPS BEFORE GETTNG OFF HIGHWAY  Cell Coverage is awful at the park and around the area!  The best thing you can do is to download maps before arriving in the area because your GPS may not function well.

  • STAY NEAR THE SOUTH ENTRANCE-  Mammoth Park is HUGE. Our AirBnb in Park City was minutes from park entrance, but even then it was still a full 10 to 15 minute drive to visitor center. If you stay near the north entrance you will have to use the Ferry to get to the Visitor Center for Cave Tours, and that could really delay your day, or even make you miss a tour. 
    • I'd recommend Cave City or Park City.  We looked at AirBnbs that were 20 to 45 minutes from the entrance, which would have meant we couldn't come and go from the park like we did. Since it was free and close, we didn't feel like we had to be in the park all day. We left, ate dinner, then would come back for an evening hike or a look at the dark sky


  • BOOK EARLY- We had picked our cave tours 2 months ahead of time, but hadn't checked out for a few weeks because we were waiting a few  scheduling details. When we went to book the tours the ones we wanted were now full! We were still able to do some great tours, but if you want one of the most popular tours, like Frozen Niagara, book early!

  • KNOW YOUR LIMITS/CHECK STAIR COUNT-  When booking your tour please know your body's limits, and anyone in your group's limits, including elderly and young children.  Our ranger told us he had to carry an 80 year woman out of the cave just the day before because half way through she just said she was done and fell down.  If you have a medical emergency it will take several hours (they said average of 4 hours) to get you out of the cave
    1. Remember to check stair count before booking tour- You are going down into the earth, and then have to come back UP! Almost all tours start and end with the starts at the Historic Entrance, but many have hundred more on the tours itself!  A few of the stairs were a little scary for those who are afraid of heights, like the fire tower in Mammoth Dome.

    2. Its not just the stairs! For all the tours that start at the visitor center, pretty much all, there is a very long and very steep hill on the way down to the entrance, so steep that even if strollers were allowed (which they aren't) I would not feel comfortable using a stroller down it. And this hill then has to be climbed AFTER you end your tour. It isn't too bad going down, but when you come out of a 2 hour tour with hundreds of steps, into a 30/40 degree temptation change, that hill feels a lot steeper.
The temperature change from the cave to the surface is drastic and fogged our glasses. 
 Our guide told us the temp change can also give several people a headache.

  • DRESS IN LAYERS- It is 54 degrees in the cave, but you are moving a lot so we were very comfortable in shorts and a sweatshirt. On our lantern tour I began to get hot from the lantern I was carrying and took off my sweatshirt a few times, but would quickly replace as the cold winds blew through.

    • To go slower: Pick how close you're to the guide to helping with pacing. It seems counter intuitive, but the tour guides wisely informed us that in big tours stay in front nearest the guide to go at a SLOWER pace. The tour of 100 people get big gaps when the trail bottle necks in a tight spaces, so people in back have to rush to keep up. I had read one negative review on our historic tour where someone complained they felt rushed. I can now see they must have been at the back and had to keep rushing to keep up with the group.
    • Lantern tour: We liked being in the back of the lantern tour because we were able to see more of the cave with all the lights. I do think it would have been cool to see the darkness at the front of the line though. It was a much smaller tour of only 40 people so we never felt rushed in the back.

  • TRY A LANTERN TOUR FIRST- Our first tour into the cave was the Star Chamber Tour.  Being introduced to the cave lantern was a great way to experience the cave it has been experienced by others for thousands of years.  
  • NO STROLLERS IN CAVE/BABY CARRIERS ON FRONT- Strollers are not allowed in cave, and would not work if they were.  Our tour guide reminded the groups that if you choose to wear a baby, you have to wear them on front because when you duck, they do not!  Some of the spots are SO tight you really won't be able to duck enough to get a baby on your back through.  In Fat Man's Misery (Historic Tour) it would be a tight squeeze to even get a baby through on your front.

  • HIKING-  Take advantage of the above ground trails!  They are all free!
    • Sinkhole Trail- This trail should be done if your cave tour goes through Mammoth Dome at all. The Sinkhole is above the dome and has a helpful illustration of how it formed the dome below!  
  • Heritage trail-  Easy paved and cat walk trails for the whole family. Take it at Sunset for great views!



    • Bucky Bees BBQ- Perfect sample of Kentucky BBQ cuisine. The pulled pork and it's dry rub was delicious, we all ate it to the last bite. I would drive back to Kentucky just for this pulled pork.  Cornbread, green beans ribs and pulled pork are amazing. My husband got sampler platter. He found grilled pork shoulder dry and brisket a little dry, but everything else was great. They also have a great salad bar option. Don't forget to add their homemade BBQ sauce, the Sweet is AMAZING

    • Cave City Creamery-  Great little Ice Cream and Coffee Place for the whole family. The coffee is just ok,  but great variety of flavors of ice cream for the kids! 


    • DARK SKY- Mammoth cave is an international dark sky. Make time to visit the park at night to look at the stars without city light pollution. The park is free and open all night so you can drive back in whenever you'd like.

    • Adventures of Mammoth Cave: Preteens, Teens, and Adults If you have older kids, this is the place to be!  There really isn't much for younger than Preteen, but my teens loved it.

      • Zipline Tour- It is expensive, but do you really want to do a CHEAP zipline?  It was a full tour and totally worth the money.  You are safely ziplining in the trees, always hooked to a tree at every moment. Even my son who is very scared of heights had a great time and felt very safe! Unfortunately we didn't get any pictures because we were all too afraid to take our phones with us! 
      • Horseback Riding- We had a great time riding horses!  The trail was challenging up and down hills and the horses were so well trained!

      • Ropes Course- Very safe, I was deeply impressed with their carbineer lock system, but not intro level at all.  The whole course is very challenging and not for amateurs.          


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