Road Trip: Mammoth Cave National Park

Families will enjoy exploring the world's longest known cave system.

A short, three-hour drive from Indianapolis, Mammoth Cave National Park is a breathtaking wonder nestled in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Mammoth Cave offers a biodiverse wonderland both above and below ground, and is home to the longest known cave-system in the world.

Mammoth Cave National Park


Mammoth Cave Tours

Park rangers lead engaging tours that can take your family on fascinating adventures. 

The Historic Tour

My family enjoyed Mammoth Cave’s Historic Tour, which took us two miles through the parts of the cave that made it famous. Along the way, we learned the ways that people have been using and exploring the cave for the last thousand years. The two hours went by too quickly, and my boys were begging for another cave tour as soon as we emerged. 

The Wondering Woods Tour

At their insistence, we were lucky enough to snag tickets to The Wondering Woods Tour the next morning. (These tickets were not available online, but were made available at The Visitors Center that morning.) 

When we arrived at an assigned shelter at the visitors center for The Wondering Woods Tour, we met our ranger where he described what we would be seeing and doing.

We boarded a bus that took us through the woods into what is known as The Tranquil Valley of Wondering Woods. Along the way, our ranger described what we were seeing from both a historical and scientific perspective. 

Once we arrived, we hiked up a short hill to a steel door that led into a tiny cave. While this cave is not part of Mammoth Cave, it was pretty spectacular. We saw stalactites and stalagmites, glistening with water. One of my boys said, “It feels like walking in a geode.” 

While we didn’t see any bats in Mammoth Cave, we did in The Wondering Woods Cave. Don’t worry! One of the rangers goes into the cave prior to the tour to turn on the lights and check everything out. There won’t be any spooky instances of bats flying at you. 

Needless to say, when visiting Mammoth Cave National Park, a cave tour is an absolute must! 


How to Book a Cave Tour

There are currently 17 different tours offered on the park’s webpage. Word to the wise: They fill up quickly! If you want to tour the main cave, it is imperative that you plan ahead and make reservations. 

A handful of tickets are available every morning, but they are not guaranteed. You don’t want to show up with your family without reserved tickets. 

I would recommend the Historic Tour to anyone who is in good health to walk, climb, and squat for two miles, and to anyone who is there to see Mammoth Cave. My boys are in elementary and middle school, and they were at the perfect age to really enjoy this tour. 

Park Trails

Besides exploring the world underground, be sure to explore the gorgeous park above ground.

Echo River Springs Trail, just under a mile, takes its hikers to where Mammoth Cave’s underground river, Echo River, emerges creating Echo River Spring

If you don’t mind stairs and are up to a fairly rugged hike, Cedar Sink Trail will lead you into a stunningly enormous sinkhole dressed up in an abundance of wild flowers throughout the warm seasons. 

By far, our favorite trail was Sloan’s Crossing Pond Walk. It’s really a very short trail around an unassuming pond, but it is brimming with wildlife. We enjoyed every minute on this leisurely hike. We made acquaintance with frogs, tadpoles, snakes, birds, ducks and squirrels. At the end of the trail, we found ranger scientists who were working in the pond, and were more than happy to answer all 500 of my boys’ questions. 

This trip gave us a wonderful opportunity to adventure and learn together. It is a beautiful, well-maintained national park that is a must-see!

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