Postcards & Passports

Why You Should Go See Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is a great place to visit for a variety of reasons. Besides the obvious opportunity to check off another national park on your bucket list, here are just a few of the best reasons why you should go see Mammoth Cave…

1. It’s in a beautiful area of the country

Mammoth Cave National Park is located 30 minutes from Bowling Green, Kentucky and only an hour and a half drive from the Nashville, Tennessee airport. The weather is relatively mild, and the roads leading to the park are very scenic. Everything was so green (or soon to be green as we visited in the spring!) We enjoyed seeing beautiful farms, red barns, and lots of trees on the way to the park.

2. To explore the world’s longest known cave system

why you should go see Mammoth Cave

Cave chamber as tall as the Statue of Liberty!

When I learned Mammoth Cave’s cave system was more than 400 miles, I thought it must spread out under several states! Instead, the caves at Mammoth Cave are like a huge plate of spaghetti, with caves twisting around and interconnecting at several levels on top of each other. While the cave system is probably even larger, 420 miles have been explored and mapped. There are a variety of cave tours available for all levels of experience, from easy walks to challenging spelunking adventures.

Another reason why you should go see Mammoth Cave is because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. And by the way, the name Mammoth Cave was given because the cave system is so HUGE — not because they found wooly mammoths in it!

3. To enjoy the beautiful scenery

I already mentioned the scenery surrounding Mammoth Cave National Park, but within the park itself, it is much more than an underground cave system. The park is home to rolling hills, deep river valleys, and a variety of plant and animal life. There are also a number of scenic overlooks where you can take in the views. At Sunset Point, you’ll enjoy not only a sunset view, but a gorgeous display of colorful foliage in the fall.

While we were there in late March, deciduous trees were beginning to bud and wildflowers were blooming. You could see the pretty yellow green of new foliage amidst the evergreen cedars.

4. To learn about the history of the cave

Mammoth Cave has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years. There are a number of archaeological sites in the park where you can learn about the people who lived there in the past. In fact, thousands of artifacts have been found within the caves, including torches, gourd bowls, pottery and woven cloth. You can also see a handful of petroglyphs and dinosaur footprints.

At one time, slaves served as tour guides here. Later, there were extensive saltpeter mines in the caves during World War II. Besides hosting cave tours, the caves have also been used for church meetings, poetry readings, and concerts. Learning more about the history of the cave helps you appreciate its importance as well as the people who contributed to its fame.

5. To get some exercise

There are a variety of hiking trails in the park, ranging from easy strolls to moderate hikes. You can also go horseback riding, biking, or fishing. Some of the most popular hiking trails include:

  • River Styx Spring Trail, 1.2 miles, easy (see where an underground spring emerges)
  • Sunset Point Trail, 0.6 miles, easy (best place to see the sunset)
  • Cedar Sink Trail, 1.8 miles, easy. (see the underground river system)
  • Heritage Trail, 0.8 miles, easy, (includes an old cemetery)
  • Big Hollow North and South Loops, 11.1 miles, moderate (good for biking, too!)

6. To relax and enjoy the peace and quiet

The park is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can relax by the river, take a nap in the sun, or just enjoy the peace and quiet. There are picnic tables near the Visitor Center for picnicking.

You can stay within the park to make your visit even more relaxing. The Lodge at Mammoth Cave is a hotel, but is currently undergoing a roof replacement project and will not be completed until late summer 2023. Additional lodging is available at the Sunset Terrace buildings and ten historic cottages within the park. The cottages are more rustic and do not have AC or heat.

And if you really want to be close to nature, Mammoth Cave National Park has a beautifully developed campground, and sites are only $25 per night.

7. To learn how Mammoth Cave was created

The Mammoth Cave visitor center is open to the public and has a wonderful exhibit explaining how Mammoth Cave was geologically created. This area is known as karst territory. Karst is associated with soluble rock types, such as limestone. The Mammoth Cave was created by a combination of dissolving bedrock and sinkholes, sinking streams, and springs. But you should go see Mammoth Cave’s visitor center and get a better explanation than I can give!

8. To enjoy a family-friendly outing

No matter what your interests are, Mammoth Cave National Park is a great place to visit. With its stunning scenery, fascinating history, and abundance of activities, there’s something for everyone at Mammoth Cave.

I recently visited Mammoth Cave National Park with my husband, my son and his wife, and three grandchildren. Our ages ranged from 5 to 61, and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. We did some light hiking, watched the 2-car ferry cross the river a few times, picnicked by the visitor center, browsed the gift shops, enjoyed all the exhibits about the caves, watched a short informational movie, and took the 2-hour historic tour of the cave. Our tour guide taught us so much about the caves, and he was quite humorous too. The kids took in every word!

One day at Mammoth Cave was just right for us, and we would encourage you to visit with your family, too!

Tips for visiting Mammoth Cave National Park

Even though we only visited one day in Mammoth Cave National Park, we have quite a few tips to share with you.

  • There is no admission fee for Mammoth Cave National Park, only the cave tours.
  • Dress in layers. It can be quite warm in the sun and very cool in the cave.
  • Wear good walking or hiking shoes with closed toes – no sandals.
  • Bring water for longer hikes.
  • Bring your national passport book if you want to stamp it with the date of your visit.
  • Book your cave tour in advance. They can sell out during spring break and summer. There are many options, with differing fees, depending on your age and the length of your tour.
  • Check in for your tour about a half-hour early at the visitor center.
  • The visitor center has restrooms; be sure to use them before going on your tour. We were told there were no facilities inside the cave. I don’t think they wanted us to plan on needing one, but in reality, there is a bathroom about an hour and 15 minutes into the historic cave tour we took.
  • Be prepared for lots of stairs and a bit of scrambling around rocks. I bumped my head on low ceilings twice, despite the fact they kept warning us!
  • You do not need to bring a flashlight as there are lights controlled by your tour guide.
  • It’s best to bring your own food and snacks. There is a camp store near the campground, but it is not within walking distance of the visitor center or cave entrance.
  • We didn’t have any problem finding parking at the visitor center.
  • You might want to bring some spending money — we found several souvenirs we wanted, including Christmas ornaments, playing cards, and really cool mugs!

Why you should go see Mammoth Cave National Park

I’ve yet to find a national park I didn’t enjoy seeing. National parks are definitely created for a good reason, and Mammoth Cave National Park is no exception. I was really glad we were able to make this visit. The caves are truly fascinating and you have to see them in person to appreciate their size and scope. Hiking and exploring the park are also worthwhile activities. If you haven’t been, I do hope I’ve given you additional motivation. I’ve added a quick one-minute video recap of our visit:

If you’re interested in more national parks, you might enjoy these articles:

White Sands National Park and Saguaro National Park

Zion National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Joshua Tree National Park

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Death Valley National Park

why you should go see Mammoth Cave

why you should go see Mammoth Cave

14 thoughts on “Why You Should Go See Mammoth Cave National Park

  1. Heather

    What a great trip! I’ve only toured one cave system before, but I really enjoyed the experience. This sounds like the Disneyland of caves!!

  2. Linda (LD Holland)

    We have not yet spent any time in Kentucky. Bu the Mammoth Cave National Park would be a big draw for us. So wild to know that 420 mils of “spaghetti” caves have been explored and mapped. We would definitely want to spend time underground exploring. But good to know there are some easy hikes in the park too. I like the idea of staying at the Lodge at Mammoth Cave and enjoying a few days in this area.

  3. Joanna

    Mammoth Cave sounds like a great place to visit. I am intrigued on how large this cave system actually is, and how vast the landscape inside it is. I can see from your photos that in some places the cave is so large, but then in other places you’ve bumped your head on the low rocks. It’s good to know that in case of emergency, there is actually a restroom at some point in the cave. Finding parking easily is also a very useful information to me, as I always research parking before I go on a road trip.

  4. Puloma Banerjee

    Mammoth Caves National Park is a great place with a fascinating history and facts surrounding it. An intertwining cave system spread across 400 miles is unbelievable! Also it’s interesting to read about human civilization attached to it with evidence. It would be wonderful to explore the various hiking trails, the scenic overlooks and the rolling hills in the National Park, picnicking and shopping for souvenirs. A visit to the visitor center to learn about how the Mammoth Caves National Park was created would be an amazing experience. I would definitely love to jump in for the 2 hour cave tour to learn more.

  5. Ambica Gulati

    This sounds like an awesome experience. I would love to explore the caves. Best part is that they have made this tourist friendly. I wonder what it would be like to read and live there, it must have been dark and cold in those days. Never seen a dinosaur print, so woulld love to see that footprint.

  6. Lisa

    I’m definitely sold on visiting Mammoth Cave National Park. All the reasons you listed make perfect sense. I’m intrigued by the history of the caves, it’s so cool you can see dinosaur footprints! It’s so particular to read that slaves were once tour guides? This is something I never heard of before.

    1. Tami Post author

      The slaves actually had more freedom as tour guides than they would have otherwise. One slave bought his freedom for $400 saved from customer tips. He went north for awhile but came back because he was treated so badly as a free colored man in the north.

  7. Umiko Silalahi

    We went there during Thanksgiving Break, so we didn’t get to see the surrounding nature. Judging from the trees, it looks like a beautiful place to visit in the fall. I think it’s good to use the restroom before the tour because there’s no restroom at the cave tour we did. And yes, it’s smart to book the tour in advance.

  8. Antoine

    Wow Mammoth Cave National Park looks like an absolute gem! I mean, who wouldn’t want to explore a massive underground labyrinth? It’s like a real-life adventure straight out of a movie. Plus, those cave formations look impressive. Love anything adventurous so this looks right up my alley. Never heard of it before but your reasons here definitely sold it to me.

  9. offbeatescapades

    Wow Mammoth Cave National Park looks like an absolute gem! I mean, who wouldn’t want to explore a massive underground labyrinth? It’s like a real-life adventure straight out of a movie. Plus, those cave formations look impressive. Love anything adventurous so this looks right up my alley. Never heard of it before but your reasons here definitely sold it to me.

  10. Paula

    This will definitely be on my list if I’m close by. We love exploring national parks and I collect stamps from each of them. I have read about the Mammoth Caves and how beautiful they are. We recently visited Lehman Caves at Great Basin NP and it was amazing! Caves are also very exciting for kids.

  11. mnerizzaveloso

    Mammoth Cave National Park seems to be such a fascinating and picturesque location. There are so many entertaining things to do here that nobody can feel bored while visiting. I grew curious in regards to the history and formation of the cave. I hope I can visit this beautiful place soon!

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