In September, we hit the road for a week-long van adventure (or #vancation as Amanda likes to call it) to Kentucky and Tennessee. Overall, the trip included A LOT of rain, but we managed to fit in a couple of great stops throughout the week.
Our very first stop was in East/Central Kentucky, where we got to explore a world below ground. Huge. Gigantic. Massive. Mighty… All great ways to describe the cave system in Mammoth Cave National Park. With over 400 miles of explored caves and tunnels, this National Park is something very special and unique. Actually, the entire area around Mammoth Cave is known for its cave systems. There's even a town down the road called "Cave City."
Tours of Mammoth Cave began over 200 years ago and many of the early artifacts are still in their original locations. We chose to take the 2-hour History Tour, which led us through some of the main sections of the cave, narrow passageways and past multiple waterfalls. I won’t get into much of the History or tour details, but I can tell you that it is entertaining, insightful and very cool (the cave remains in the mid-50’s year-round, which feels a lot colder when the outside air is in the 80’s). Amanda found herself pulling her Seek Headband over her ears about halfway through the tour to keep warm!
Getting into the cave is easy enough, as there is a manmade walkway and stair system. Once inside, you’ll walk over a mix of flat cement floors, very narrow tunnels and then back up about 200 stairs. The Park Service recommends you know your limits before entering, since once you’re in the cave there are very few ways back out.
Our favorite part of the tour was the low and narrow passageway. At 5’6” (Amanda) and 6’ (Larry) both of us had to duck and shimmy for about a quarter mile through the winding path. It was eerie and dark, with just enough ambient light to guide the way.
The History Tour cost (in Fall 2018) was $17pp. Other tours range from under $10 for the self-guided tour all the way up to $60 for a 6-hour adult only caving tour. There seemed to be something for everyone in the caves.
If cave exploration isn’t your thing, the park also has mountain bike trails, hiking, canoeing/kayaking on the nearby river, and horseback riding that are all worth checking out. We did a very short hike around the Visitor Center, but did not have time for much more on this trip.
For those spending the night, we highly recommend the Mammoth Cave Campground. It’s only ¼ mile from the Visitor Center and has very well-kept campsites. The bathrooms were clean (always a plus!) too. The best part, it was only $20 per night for a standard site.
If you ever find yourself in southwestern Kentucky, we very much recommend Mammoth Cave National Park!