Year Established: 1941
Annual Visitors: 516,000
Size: 53,012 Acres
Best Time to Visit Mammoth Cave National Park
March to April, October to November
If you are planning to visit more national parks, check out our complete list of all US National Parks.
Best Experiences in Mammoth Cave National Park
- Guided cave tour – Explore 10 miles of passageways
- River Styx Spring Trail
- Come across more than 130 species of wildlife
A Brief History
If you went hiking through the area’s farms, woods, and rivers, you wouldn’t know that water has been carving 405 miles of winding tunnels for the last 10 million years. Subterranean rivers and streams flow through this, the largest cave system on Earth. The Green River, which is the longest, winds for 16 miles.
This huge underground world is full of dank chambers with stalactites hanging from the ceilings like vanilla icicles and stalagmites reaching up. These were all made by the slow drip, drip, drip of calcite-rich water over time.
In the dark park, there are animals like eyeless cave fish and clear Kentucky cave shrimp, as well as 15 different kinds of bats (though the bat population has dwindled). Spelunkers can go on tours with guides to get through some of the more difficult passages.
About Mammoth Cave
Kentucky’s hills hide a limestone cave labyrinth. Estimates suggest less than half of this national park has been explored. This adds to the excitement of a visit, and its five levels will keep you going. Since 1838, when 17-year-old slave Stephen Bishop was the first to cross Bottomless Pit. 400 miles have been mapped by him. On the cave’s rivers, he sailed with lard-oil lamp lights, tunnels and caverns. Visitors can take six-hour tours of Bishop’s work. Best vibe: You can avoid electric-lit routes by carrying a paraffin lamp through tight passageways.
Early cave explorers marveled at the huge chambers and gloomy, beautiful caverns.
A ranger may turn off all the lights before lighting a match. Any tour you choose, there are some that have you on your hands and knees through tight spaces to see rock formations. In Frozen Niagara, see travertine flowstone formations.
There’s plenty to do above ground, too. Bird-and-flower-filled forests surround the caves. Green and Nolin rivers flow through, offering kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. Caves are the highlight. There’s nowhere else like it on Earth.
Mammoth Cave RV Camping
If you are looking for nearby RV camping options for Mammoth Cave National Park or in Kentucky, consider checking out our other post:
There is no fee to get into Mammoth Cave National Park or to see its surface features. The cave tour, camping, and reserving picnic shelters all require a fee though. Cave tour prices vary.
Contacting Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave Visitor Center
The park visitor center is the best place for people to learn about what’s above and below ground at Mammoth Cave. The visitor center is just up the hill from the cave’s Historic Entrance. It is the starting point for all cave tours and has displays to help you get ready for your adventure. You can also go hiking or listen to a ranger talk. You can buy gifts, use the restrooms, get information, and get a permit. The Mammoth Cave Hotel, which is just across the footbridge, also has services for visitors.
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007
Hours of Operation
- Sunday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
- Monday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
- Tuesday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
- Wednesday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
- Thursday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
- Friday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
- Saturday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM