Explore part of the world’s longest known cave system by taking Mammoth Cave National Park tours. There have been over 420 miles of cave passageways surveyed which makes it almost double the length of the second-longest known cave system. Keep reading to learn more about the park and tours available.
Mammoth Cave National Park – The Basics
- Address: 1 Visitor Center Partway Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
- Hours: Park is open 24 hours a day
- Visitor Center Hours:
- Spring/Summer: 8 AM to 6 PM
- Fall/Winter: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Cave tours and camping require a separate fee
How do I get to Mammoth Cave National Park?
This park is in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky which is approximately 45 minutes from Bowling Green, Kentucky. The park is in a rural area of Kentucky, but it is within a 2-hour drive from three major cities.
Mammoth Cave National Park is 1.5 hours from Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee or 2 hours from Lexington, Kentucky.
If you are flying to visit the park the closest airport is Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport (~1 hour 15 minutes). However, there are two larger airports, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport or Nashville International Airport, which are ~1 hour 30 minutes away.
When you are planning your trip, you can also add a couple days to your trip to explore Louisville, Nashville, or Lexington if you are flying in or out of any of these cities.
TIP: An important note about timing depending on where you are traveling from is Mammoth Cave National Park is in central daylight time. Louisville and Lexington, KY are both in eastern day time and Nashville, TN is also in central.
Where should I stay when visiting Mammoth Cave National Park?
If you are planning only a day trip to Mammoth Cave you could consider staying in one of the larger nearby cities such as Louisville or Nashville, but with a 3-hour drive time round-trip this will limit your time to explore the park.
If you want more time to spend in the park you should plan to stay somewhere within or near the National Park. There are a couple of options for lodging within the park including the Lodge at Mammoth Cave and three campgrounds. The Lodge at Mammoth Cave has hotel rooms and cabins available, and occupancy can range from 2 to 16 people. More information can be found here.
There are three campgrounds within the park including Mammoth Cave Campground, Maple Springs Campground, and Houchin Ferry Campground. There are also options for backcountry or riverside campsites. All camping within the park requires a permit. More information on camping within Mammoth Cave National Park can be found here.
When should I visit?
Mammoth Cave National Park tours are offered year-round, and the park can be visited during any season. However, not all tours will be offered every day so you will want to check the tour calendar when planning your trip.
The average temperature in the summers reaches the high 80’s and the average temperature in the winter is in the low 40’s. Spring and fall are milder than either of the extreme temperatures of summer or winter, however the most rainfall occurs during the spring.
While the weather outside is important to consider depending on what you plan to do during your visit, it is important to note the weather inside the cave does not change. The cave is a constant 54⁰F year-round.
TIP: I recommend bringing at least a light jacket if you are visiting in the summer because the cave will feel very cool compared to the above ground temperatures.
How many days should I spend in Mammoth Cave National Park?
My primary reason for visiting was to take one of the Mammoth Cave National Park tours so I only visited the park as a day trip. However, I wish I would’ve planned for at least an overnight trip so I could have taken another tour and spent time exploring the park above ground. In general, anywhere from 1-3 days should be enough time to visit the park.
What is there to do in Mammoth Cave National Park
I think it goes without saying, but one of the biggest attractions to those visiting the park is the Mammoth Cave National Park tours of the cave.
Other activities in the park:
- Ranger-led programs
- Horseback riding
General Information on Mammoth Cave National Park Tours
There are many options for Mammoth Cave National Park tours of the cave. There are a few important things to consider when planning a cave tour including what your interests are, how long of a tour you want to complete, and how strenuous of a tour you would like to complete. The tour lengths range from 1 to 4 hours long. Most of the cave tours are through portions of Mammoth Cave, however there is one tour through Great Onyx Cave which is also located within Mammoth Cave National Park.
Tips for Booking Mammoth Cave National Park Tours
- The only way to explore the cave is by purchasing a ticket for a ranger led cave tour.
- I highly recommend you purchase your tickets in advance. Many cave tours will sell out.
- Tickets can usually be purchased anywhere from 1 to 3 months in advance.
- Read the descriptions of the cave tours and consider any limitations you may have before signing up for a particular tour.
- The tours vary widely from wheelchair accessible to short or long walking tours and even a tour where crawling or crouching may be required. Additionally, some of the tours require climbing up and down over 500 steps!
- Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your cave tour departure time.
Be sure to check out the current tour schedule here. There are over 10 different Mammoth Cave National Park tours of the cave, however some of the tours are only offered on certain days or times of the year. In general, the summer months tend to have the most available tours options due to it being the busiest time of the year in the park.
Mammoth Cave National Park Tours
Please see below a brief description of the various Mammoth Cave National Park tours offered. I recommend looking at the full descriptions when planning your visit as some of these tours include portions of other tours. Pricing varies based on age and tour type which can also be found on the park website.
Brief Tour Descriptions
- Accessible Tour – Temporary unavailable; uses elevator entrance and emerges in the famous Snowball Room
- Cleveland Avenue Tour* – Perfect for those wanting to experience a unique part of the cave
- Historic Tour – This is the most common tour and is offered multiple times each day and is perfect for those wanting to learn about the history of Mammoth Cave
- Extended Historic Tour – This is the same tour as the historic tour with a bonus side trip to a famous site within the cave
- Domes and Dripstones Tour* – This is an ideal tour for those wanting to see stalactites and stalagmites
- Frozen Niagara* – This section is one of the most famous areas of Mammoth Cave, ideal for those who have difficulty with stairs or walking long distances
- Gothic Avenue Tour – This tour includes stalactites and stalagmites and focuses on the early history of the cave
- Great Onyx Lantern Tour* – This cave tour is in Great Onyx Cave, which is separate from Mammoth Cave, this may be ideal if you are wanting to complete multiple cave tours during your visit
- Grand Avenue Tour* – Explores the diverse geology available throughout Mammoth Cave, this is the longest walking tour available
- Mammoth Passage Tour – Introductory tour within the historic entrance, this tour is ideal for anyone who does not like tight spaces, but still wants to see part of the cave
- Violent City Lantern Tour* – Experience the cave exclusively by lantern light
- Stay Chamber Lantern Tour – Evening tour guided by lantern light
- River Styx Cave Tour – This tour route is the historic tour with a side trip to the underground water level with a focus on the geology of the cave
*Requires a short bus ride from the visitor center to the entrance into Mammoth Cave.
Final Thoughts on Mammoth Cave National Park
The Mammoth Cave National Park tours of the world’s longest cave system are the clear highlight of visiting the park. However, there is plenty more to explore above ground within then 50,000 plus acres of the park. Have you ever visited Mammoth Cave National Park or are you planning a visit soon? Leave a comment and let me know!
Looking for other National Park adventures?
Check out these posts:
- Biscayne National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Shark Valley Everglades National Park
- Hot Springs National Park
- Congaree National Park
If you are interested in a cave tour in the state of Florida, I recommend checking out my post on Florida Caverns State Park.
The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. Information will be verified and updated periodically. If you are planning to visit Mammoth Cave National Park I recommend verifying the most current information with the National Park website.