Now, thinking about walking (or crawling) through a cave has always made me feel queasy because I am more than a little claustrophobic. But every time I pass the signs along I-65 for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, I contemplate making a second visit. My first venture into the cave was when I was about 10. I don’t remember if we were headed for our annual Florida vacation or if we just made a long weekend trip from home in Indianapolis, but I remember the excursion well; and I’m pretty sure we stayed at the old Mammoth Cave Hotel which sits on the national park property near the visitor center.
Brianna, who doesn’t like her mother to have any experience that has eluded her, decided on our recent trek up I-65 that a trip to Mammoth Cave is in our near future. And she has made her case with me because a trip to Mammoth is well worth the time.
At more than 367 miles in length, Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave in the world. In fact, the cave is so long that if the second and third longest caves (Jewel Cave in South Dakota at 140 miles and Optymistychna Cave in Ukraine at 133 miles) were joined together, Mammoth Cave would still be the planet’s longest cave by about 100 miles. And the explorers who are still mapping new passages in Mammoth Cave say there is no end in sight.
As you can imagine, a cave this size offers numerous spelunking expeditions. Cave tours explore different parts of the huge cave system and are of varying lengths and distances to fit into your schedule. Tours focus on the cave’s natural and cultural history and landmarks. Walk through gypsum-lined passages, narrow canyons, underground hills, large rooms, and areas with dripstone formations. You’ll see landmarks like the Grand Canyon, Frozen Niagara, Snowball Room, Rainbow Dome, Crystal Lake, Fat Man’s Misery and the Drapery Room.
The cave, of course, is the most famous feature, but Mammoth Cave National Park offers a wide variety of other recreational activities on its 52,000 acres. There are over 70 miles of trails for hiking, over 30 miles of the Green and Nolin rivers to explore, camping, horseback riding and biking. Two of the few operating rural ferries in the nation are found on the Green River, and there are year-round opportunities for canoeing, boating and fishing.
Check the Mammoth Cave National Park website for more information about the park and for cave tour times, prices, reservations and directions from I-65.
Read more of Sherri’s travel adventures at Brown’s Guides.