Mammoth Cave National Park

A national park ranger guiding tourists through Mammoth Cave.

Mammoth Cave National Park is a United States National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kentucky's Caves and Lakes region. It preserves the world's longest known cave system, with over 392 miles of caves. The park was established in 1941 and currently draws nearly two million visitors annually.

Understand

History

The cave itself is approximately fifteen million years old. Humans have been visiting the cave for approximately four thousand years, although it was only discovered by Europeans in 1797. Through 1816 the cave was mined for nitrates, used in gunpowder, but after the war of 1812 ended it was sold and cave tours became popular. With nearly two hundred years as a tourist attraction Mammoth Cave is one of North America's oldest tourist destinations.

Flora and Fauna

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to over 70 threatened, endangered or state listed species. More than 130 species are regular inhabitants of the caves. These species are divided almost equally among three classes of cave life: obligate cave dwellers known as troglobites, facultative species which can complete their life cycle in or out of caves (troglophiles), and those that use caves for refuge (trogloxenes). The Park has cave species and biotic cave communities that are among the most diverse in the world. Because of its diverse array of landscapes and habitats, the Park contains an extraordinary 1300 species of plants.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 46 51 61 71 79 86 89 88 83 72 60 48
Nightly lows (°F) 28 32 39 47 55 64 68 67 59 49 40 31
Precipitation (in) 3.5 3.9 4.6 4.4 5.4 4.4 4.6 4.1 4.0 3.8 4.3 5.2

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Kentucky has a moderate climate, characterized by warm, yet moist conditions. Summers are usually warm, and winters cool. An average 46 in (116 cm) of precipitation falls during the year, with spring being the rainiest season.

Get in

Most visitors access the park from two roadways which have interchanges with Interstate 65, one near Park City, Kentucky (KY 255) and the other near Cave City (KY 70). KY 70 also enters the park from the west side of the park, near Brownsville. No entrance fee is charged.

No public transportation is available. The nearest commercial airports are in Louisville and Nashville.

Fees/Permits

There are no fees to enter the park. Guided cave tours, however, range in price from $5 to $48.

Get around

Cave tours depart from the park visitor center in buses.

No public transportation is available in the area, including taxi service.

Do

A mammoth entrance to a mammoth cave

Cave tours

During the summer it is possible to explore a tiny part of the cave without a ranger, but all other areas of the cave require a ranger guide. Besides the year round tours, there are many others that are offered seasonally. It is best to check the park website, or contact the park directly for exact tours offered during your planned visit. In the summer, reservations are strongly recommended as tours sell out quickly, but at other times of year it is usually possible to sign up for a tour when you arrive at the park.

Other activities

The park offers a tremendous number of hiking trails, as well as options for boating, wildlife viewing, and general recreation.

Trailheads

Buy

Within the park there is a gift shop at the visitor center, and a store at the hotel offering gifts as well as snacks and basic supplies.

Eat

A restaurant is located at the Mammoth Cave Hotel. This is the only public food service within the park proper.

Outside of the park, fast-food restaurants are found in Cave City (McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silver's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen), as well as family-style restaurants. More dining options are available in Glasgow located 25 miles east of the park and in Bowling Green located 40 miles south of the park.

Drink

Barren and Edmonson counties are "dry," though residents of Cave City voted in November 2005 to allow liquor by the drink in restaurants only. In June 2014, Cave City residents voted to allow packaged sales of liquor. Cave City and Bowling Green are the nearest cities to the park where full liquor sales are permitted.

Sleep

Motel and camping facilities are available within the park itself. National chain motels can be found in nearby Cave City and Park City. There are cabins available as well as bed and breakfasts located minutes from the park.

Lodging

Camping

Mammoth Cave National Park has several camping options. Mammoth Cave Campground is adjacent to the visitor center, has 109 spaces suitable for all types of RV's. No hookups are provided; a shower/toilet house is available. $16/night ($8 with Golden Age/Golden Access pass), maximum stay 14 days. Houchins Ferry Campground is a primitive 12-site campground, not suitable for RV's or trailers and accessible only by ferry. $12/night ($6 with Golden Age/Golden Access pass). Maple Springs Group Campground is located six miles from the visitor center, and features seven sites for up to 24 campers each; four sites have horse facilities. $25/night.

Backcountry

Backcountry camping is permitted in thirteen designated campsites and within 100 feet of the Green River. A free backcountry permit is required and can be picked up at the park headquarters. The maximum group size is limited to eight people and the length of stay cannot exceed fourteen days.

Stay safe

Go next

Routes through Mammoth Cave National Park

Morgantown Brownsville  W  E  Jct N S Cave City



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