Do you like cave tours? Or, would you like to try a cave tour for the first time?
Either way, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is a great option. I was invited on a press trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky and I admit that getting the chance to visit Mammoth Cave was the main reason I said “Yes!”
I like visiting caves and have toured caves in South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and now Kentucky. Mammoth Cave happens to be the longest cave IN THE WORLD! It is also one of the oldest tourist attractions in the United States. The crazy thing is, explorers haven't even found the end of Mammoth Cave yet. Experts guess that there may still be hundreds more miles to discover.
Here are my top tips for making the most of your visit to Mammoth Cave National Park.
Frozen Niagara Tour
The Frozen Niagara Tour was the highlight of my day at Mammoth Cave National Park. Frozen Niagara is the shortest, easiest and least expensive tour in the park, but it has lots of stalactites, stalagmites and other beautiful cave features. The tour's namesake is a large and beautiful formation that does look like a waterfall made of limestone. The tour also includes a side trip into the ornate Drapery Room and other fascinating cave features.
The Frozen Niagara Tour is one of Mammoth Cave's introductory tours. This Mammoth Cave tour covers just 1/4 mile and requires visitors to climb only 12 steps, but it includes some impressive features. You have the option to take more steps down to the Drapery Room, which you definitely should do unless you have physical limitations that prevent it.
You will take a short bus ride to and from the visitor center. At the end of your tour, you'll walk across a sudsy mat to clean your shoes and help prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome, which has killed many of Mammoth Cave's bats. Be sure to bring a jacket and sturdy closed-toe shoes for every member of your family.
I thought that the Frozen Niagara tour was impressive, with many beautiful cave features, but it was shorter than I would have liked. It's a great option for first time cave visitors, families with young children or visitors with physical limitations.
The Domes and Dripstones Tour and Grand Avenue Tour both cover the same ground as the Frozen Niagara Tour, but are longer, with more stairs and features. If I have the opportunity to return, Domes and Dripstones would be high on my list.
Need a place to stay? There are lots of affordable hotels near Mammoth Cave in Bowling Green. Click the link now to check rates and reviews for local hotels on TripAdvisor.
More Mammoth Cave Tour tips
Mammoth Cave National Park offers more than a dozen cave tours, which is more than I've seen at any other cave. It's the longest cave in the world, with perhaps hundreds of miles of cave that hasn't been discovered yet. Tours range from 1-4 hours and easy to strenuous.
I was surprised to learn that Mammoth Cave is fairly dry, so you won't see stalactites, stalagmites and other interesting formations in every part of the cave. Every Mammoth Cave tour has different highlights, so be sure that the tour you book includes the features you want to see. The Domes and Dripstones Tour and Grand Avenue Tour both cover the same ground as the Frozen Niagara Tour
No matter which Mammoth Cave tour you choose, make reservations in advance whenever possible. Tours frequently sell out. Search for Mammoth Cave National Park at www.recreation.gov to reserve your tour.
Above ground at Mammoth Cave
Don't limit your activities at Mammoth Cave National Park to underground cave tours. Above ground, the park is beautiful, heavily wooded and filled with wildlife. I was told that the fall leaves are spectacular in early October. Take time to explore some of the hiking and biking trails. Fishing, canoeing and kayaking are popular on the Green and Nolin Rivers.
The visitor center at Mammoth Cave National Park is large and offers a variety of services. I enjoyed walking through the exhibits and learning more about the science and history behind Mammoth Cave. I had no idea before this trip how many caves and sink holes can be found in this part of Kentucky.
The visitor center also has a good gift shop, lodge and cafe where local ice cream from Chaney's Dairy Barn is served. Be sure to treat yourself to a cone before or after your tour.
I enjoyed visiting Mammoth Cave National Park and I recommend it for families. My only regret is that I didn't have more time to take another cave tour and explore some of the nature trails above ground. I guess it gives me a good reason to return and share this great destination with my family before too long.
Disclosure: My trip to Mammoth Cave National Park was hosted by Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. I received no additional compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.
Good to Know
Where: South central Kentucky, just off of Interstate 65. Bowling Green is the largest nearby city, and it makes a good base for this trip.
When: The park is open year-round, but cave tour and visitor center schedules vary by season. Visit the Mammoth Cave National Park website for details.
How Much: There is no charge to enter the park or explore the visitor center or hiking trails above ground. There is a per person charge for cave tours. Visit the Mammoth Cave National Park website for details.
How Long: At least 3 hours to take a tour and see exhibits in the visitor center. If you like cave tours and nature hikes, you could easily spend a full day or more at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Amenities: Visitor Center, lodging, camping, restaurant, gift shops, museum, restrooms
How else can I help?
Flying in? Nashville International Airport is the nearest major airport to Mammoth Cave National Park. We like AirfareWatchdog to compare fares from major airlines. Then book directly with the airline, rather than a 3rd party site. Find out why HERE.
Need a place to stay? I stayed at Fairfield Inn and Suites Bowling Green, courtesy of Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. It's a new hotel with an indoor pool and complimentary hot breakfast buffet. Click the button to check prices and availability for this and other local hotels at TripAdvisor.
Need a rental car? Driving your own car is the best way to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. Find the best rates from dozens of agencies at RentalCars.com. Read my tips for getting the best price on your rental car HERE.
Packing list: Every member of the family needs a jacket and a sturdy pair of closed-toe shoes for any cave tour. Cave temperatures are chilly year-round and natural cave trails are often uneven. I wore Sketchers walking shoes with memory foam from Amazon.com.