Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park  by Jonny Molloy

Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park Guide Book

by Jonny Molloy (Falcon Guides)
Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park  by Jonny Molloy
Recognized for having the largest known cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave National Park, in southwestern Kentucky, has become a destination for nearly two million recreationalists every year. Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park, 2nd covers in detail all of the aboveground and belowground activities in this 50,000-acre national park, including hiking, biking, scenic driving, camping, paddling, fishing, and of course, caving.

© 2014 Jonny Molloy/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 33.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 33.

The Blair Spring Trail is an interior trail that links Collie Ridge on the east with Wet Prong Buffalo Creek to the west. It’s the shortest backcountry trail in the park. There are no campsites along it. Blair Spring Trail leaves Collie Ridge west on a dry hickory-oak slope, pocked with mountain laurel. It runs along a ridgeline before descending along a small stream. Watch as the stream flows down into a rocky sink, doing its part to carve the limestone labyrinth belowground. Continue descending beyond the sink to reach Wet Prong Buffalo Creek at 1 mile. This generally clear stream is easily crossed in times of normal flow. Just upstream lies the confluence of two forks that form Wet Prong. Beyond the crossing, the Blair Spring Trail turns left, downstream.
Cave City, KY - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 1.2
The Buffalo Trail begins at the Maple Springs Trailhead and uses old roads in its westward quest to meet the Good Spring Loop Trail, passing old homesites along the way. Toward its end, it makes quite a few twists and turns as it meanders along roads that once skirted the property lines where settlers had homes. The trail’s highlights include homesites and sink, and while it sees moderate use the trail condition is good.
Cave City, KY - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 2.8
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
This short path leaves near campsite 107, which is in the 92–111 loop of the campground. Take the path downhill over one bridge; where one trail continues ahead toward the park amphitheater, turn left onto an old roadbed. The Campground Trail heads along this roadbed through level land, passing the Campfire Circle, a small amphitheater. Keep west on the old roadbed as the flat narrows; the trail then makes a hard left downhill, while an unmaintained trail keeps forward. Descend then make a hard right, as the roadbed you have been following continues toward Green River Ferry Road. Enter a world of cedar trees shading rock outcrops and a scenic area before meeting the Mammoth Dome Sink Trail near White’s Cave.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1 mile
The Collie Ridge Trail traverses a crest dividing the Wet and Dry Prongs of Buffalo Creek. It’s a heavily used horse trail and even has a spur path connecting to a park-permitted equestrian outfitter. The path leaves the Lincoln Trailhead and works its way south, then southwest along an old roadbed to end not far from the Green River, where it forms one leg of an important trail junction. The trail acts as a good connector in the heart of the backcountry, as well as offers access to Collie Ridge backcountry campsite. The trail condition is mostly good and sees heavy traffic.
Cave City, KY - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 3.6
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
The First Creek Trail is a linear path with a loop in the middle. This loop circles First Creek Lake, a small body of water that adds some watery scenery to the trail. There are three backcountry campsites along the way, making overnight stays here a cinch. The highlights include Nolin River, First Creek Lake, homesites, Second Creek backcountry campsite, First Creek 1 backcountry campsite, First Creek 2 backcountry campsite, spring wildflowers, and unusual plant species.
Cave City, KY - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 6.4
This is an introductory tour designed for older or younger visitors and those who have difficulty walking, as well as those who want a short overview of the cave or aren’t sure they like caves enough to commit to an extended tour. It’s offered year-round. President Ronald Reagan took this tour when he visited Mammoth Cave National Park in the 1980s. You’ll take a 4-mile bus ride from the visitor center to the Frozen Niagara Entrance—a man-made cave access. From here you’re led into the cave by a ranger, and you’ll travel a narrow walkway that requires some stooping. You’ll pass flowing formations before coming to Crystal Lake, a body of water far below on which old-time cave tourists used to ride a boat.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: .25
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
The Good Spring Loop Trail makes a circuit through the heart of the park backcountry. Nearly every backcountry trail either connects to this path or comes close to it. This path starts at Good Spring Church and circles the valley of Dry Prong. The highlights include Good Spring Church, homesites, Homestead backcountry campsite, Bluffs backcountry campsite, Collie Ridge backcountry campsite, and a good loop opportunity. The trail sees heavy use but remains in mostly good condition.
Cave City, KY - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 7.6
This is easily the longest of Mammoth Cave’s standard tours; only the strenuous Wild Cave Tour is longer in both distance and time. At 4 miles, the Grand Avenue Tour could be classified as an underground hike. Additionally, you have the option of enjoying lunch underground, and there are two bathroom stops. Yes, they have underground bathrooms at Mammoth Cave! Cave ecology and cave formation are emphasized as you travel through different types of cave passages. And covering 4 miles gives you a broader perspective of the cave.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: 4
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
The Green is one of the most biologically rich rivers in the country, and reportedly the fourth most biologically diverse in the world. It is a place where habitats of the North meet habitats of the South. Approximately 150 species of fish call the Green River home. The banks, alternating rock and mud, rise steeply from the water and meld into junglesque shores of thick forests. The Green River enters the park at its confluence with Cub Run, then flows through the national park for 4 miles before reaching Dennison Ferry.
Cave City, KY - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 7.5
From Green River Ferry, the river winds westward with a very slack current during normal flow. About a mile beyond the ferry and 200 feet off the river to your left is a small cave with a beautiful, clear pool of icy water. A caution for this run is to avoid the dangerous lock and dam, end your trip at Houchins Ferry or prepare to portage around the dam. Do not go over the dam.
Cave City, KY - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 12.2
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
If you’re going to come and camp at Mammoth Cave for a few days, why not do it at the campground that sits in the heart of the park and directly over parts of the cave? This facility is called Headquarters for a reason. It’s strategically located near the visitor center, where most of the cave tours take place, and is the jumping-off point for almost everything else. The campsites feature picnic tables, fire rings, lantern posts, and some also have a tent pad and mini table.
Cave City, KY - Campgrounds
One of Mammoth’s better guided tours, this is a good tour to take if you only have time for one. It offers many cave highlights and travels through passages large and small, giving tourists a good taste of the overall Mammoth experience. Part of the reason for the name Historic Tour is that it follows tour routes that visitors have been tracing for nearly 200 years. This tour is offered year-round. You’ll begin at the visitor center, heading down to the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave. There your group will gather at the saltpeter mine to learn how these operations turned the cave into the destination it is today.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: 2
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
Houchins Ferry Campground is the only campground at Mammoth Cave National Park open year-round. It’s located away from the bulk of the park’s action, and is thus less visited and less used. A ferry operates adjacent to the campground, which is stretched out along a flat about 30 feet above the Green River. Hardwoods shade the camping area, which is backed by a steep hill rising away from the Green. The understory is open and grassy. A gravel loop road leads past the water spigot and screened vault toilets to enter the camping area. The initial eight sites are directly riverside. Landscaping timbers delineate each campsite. Come to a small auto turnaround, where a couple more campsites are situated and have the most privacy. The final two campsites are away from the river and are well distanced from each other. Across from the campground, there is a brick picnic pavilion with two fireplaces, which could come in handy on rainy days. With only twelve sites, this small recreation area can only get so busy. The campground fills on summer weekends. Anglers and locals make return visits.
Cave City, KY - Campgrounds
This is the second most challenging tour at Mammoth Cave. It is designed for those who want to go beyond the maintained cave trails available and get down and dirty, crawling, climbing, scrambling. Those with the moxie to take this tour will literally get their feet wet. Two experienced and knowledgeable cavers, park rangers who know not only caving but also Mammoth Cave and its human and natural history, will initiate the willing into the world of spelunking. The tour is offered year-round on weekends, and also on weekdays during summer.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: 1.25
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
This tour is offered during summer to handle the crowds who want a quick overview of the cave without committing a lot of time. This tour is not available by reservation. On weekends the tour is unguided, but rangers are stationed at strategic and interesting locales. During summer weekdays this tour is guided. I recommend the guided tour over the unguided. On guided tours the group assembles outside the visitor center and walks down to the Historic Entrance. After entering the cave, you’ll learn about how the Houchins Narrows was named, then reassemble in the Great Rotunda, site of the saltpeter-mining operation that helped the United States win the War of 1812.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: .75
This guided tour incorporates the Mammoth Cave Discovery Tour and adds some elements of the Historic Tour, giving you a good overview of Mammoth Cave’s human and natural history. A guide really helps in dispensing the important facts and answering questions. The tour will sate the curiosities of those who want a taste of Mammoth Cave yet will make most visitors want an additional tour to learn and see more. The Mammoth Passage Tour leaves the visitor center and descends to the Historic Entrance. All the while the guide verbally paints a picture of the cave and answers visitor questions.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: .75
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
This large campground enjoys a big, level site and offers a variety of conditions among its seven group campsites. These sites are stretched along a U-shaped loop located of Maple Springs Loop Road. Enter the loop road and campsite 0 is on your left. All the sites are located on the outside of the loop. This site, with concrete picnic tables, is reserved for day use only and not available for overnight rental. Of the seven actual campsites, sites 1 through 4 are reserved for horses only, and technically these four sites are considered a separate campground. Each of the first four sites also has a horse-hitching area in the woods below, as well as a horse trailer parking area. Each site has picnic tables, a large fire grate, and a lantern post.
Cave City, KY - Campgrounds
McCoy Hollow Trail runs along, around, and above the bluffs of the Green River, in the western edge of the park’s backcountry area. The path winds in and out of hollows that are open by the river and tighten up the farther they are from the water. The highlights include Green River bluffs, views, boulder fields, Three Springs backcountry campsite, and McCoy Hollow backcountry campsite. The trail sees moderate use and is in mostly good condition.
Cave City, KY - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 5.7
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
This tour starts in one entrance and comes out another, eliminating the need to backtrack. A 4-mile bus ride leads to the New Entrance, which was widened and enhanced with stairs in 1921 to allow people to enter more easily. Cave explorers get an immediate surprise as they descend into a dripping deep pit, where stainless-steel metal stairs lead between slender passages and past interesting rock formations. The water dripping around you (and onto you, a little bit) is what formed the features through which you’re walking, and adds an adventurous aura to the affair. You’ll negotiate a total of 300 stairs before leveling out 250 feet below the surface at Grand Central Station—so named for the six ways into and out of the large room, just as in New York City’s famed land- mark. Here the ranger-guide continues to inform neophyte cave people about their new surroundings.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Hiking,Nature Trips,Walking - Trail Length: .75
Dismal Rock is located just across the river from the Tailwater boat ramp, the run’s beginning. The Nolin River flows from the bottom of Nolin River Lake Dam, passing fields and wooded hillsides. The lowermost banks near the dam Green River Levels To find the paddling status of the Green, check the gauge at Green River Ferry, located on the south side of the river. It should read less than 6 feet for safe paddling.
Cave City, KY - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 9.1
ADD TO BOOKSHELF