October 22, 2021

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Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

There are plenty of hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park for beginners and experienced trail buffs. The main trails near the Visitor’s Center can be explored in a single day if you are up for the task, but there are plenty of additional attractions to see in other areas of the park! Even though the park is known as the home of the longest-known cave system in the world, the trails above ground shouldn’t be missed by serious hikers.

Tip: The discovery tour of Mammoth Cave is the best way to see the main Rotunda on a self-guided adventure. If you want to explore deeper into the caves, I recommend booking a cave tour well in advance of your proposed arrival date.

Always check the national park website for the latest alerts and updates on tour availability.

Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Mammoth Cave near entrance. Getty Images

The Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park I Enjoyed Near the Visitor’s Center

I spent a full day hiking while I was in the park. From the Mammoth Cave Campground, I connected the Whites Caves Trail to the Sinkhole Trail to the Echo River Springs Trail to the Green River Bluffs Trail (with little side spurs off on the River Styx Spring Trail and the Dixon Cave Trail).

There are roughly 7.2 total miles of trails in the center of the park, but here is a quick overview of the trails I hiked in the visitor’s center area:

Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

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Whites Cave Trail

  • Length: 0.6 miles
  • Starting Point: Sinkhole Trail and/or Mammoth Cave Campground Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Whites Cave Trail descends gently from the Mammoth Cave Campground. It is a wide trail that offers plenty of space for two-way traffic while still offering plenty of canopy coverage to keep you in the shade.

It eventually ties into the Sinkhole Trail, which you can take to the left if you want to check out Echo River Springs. If you follow it to the right, it will remain higher up on the bluff and head towards the Visitor’s Center.

Sinkhole Trail

  • Length: 1 mile
  • Starting Point: Heritage Trail and/or Echo River Springs Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Sinkhole Trail runs from the Old Guide’s Cemetery and runs down to Echo River Springs. The section I hit from the junction with Whites Cave Trail down to the springs lost elevation the entire time and could be a little slippery after heavy rain.

Echo River Springs Trail

  • Length: 1 mile
  • Starting Point: Green River Ferry
  • Difficulty: Easy

Parking near Green River Ferry will give you the best chance to see Echo River Springs on a short hike, but you can also follow the trail along the river. It offers minimal elevation change throughout, but that can change if you decide to tie into the River Valley Trail or the Sunset Point Trail to loop back around.

Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

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River Styx Spring Trail

  • Length: 0.4 miles
  • Starting Point: Historic Cave Entrance
  • Difficulty: Easy

The River Styx Spring Trail begins near the historic entrance to Mammoth Cave and descends gently down to the spring itself. Look for small fish and other aquatic life once you get down there and feel for the cooler air that is exiting the caves below your feet.

If you hike the Echo River Springs Trail from Green River Ferry, be sure to hit the quick spur on the River Styx Spring Trail to see the springs and enjoy some views of the Green River up close.

Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

River Styx Spring. Getty Images

Green River Bluffs Trail

  • Length: 1.3 miles
  • Starting Point: Picnic Area near Visitor’s Center
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Green River Bluffs Trail is one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted trail near the Mammoth Cave Visitor’s Center. It also offers mild elevation gain and some of the best views of the Green River Valley that the park has to offer.

If you take this trail all the way from where it begins at the intersection of the Echo River Springs and River Styx Spring trails, it will loop you all the way around to the picnic area, which is just a quick walk back to the visitor’s center.

Dixon Cave Trail

  • Length: 0.4 miles
  • Starting Point: Historic Cave Entrance
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Dixon Cave Trail descends moderately from the historic cave entrance and ends at a nice overlook of the Green River valley. Along the way, the overlook of Dixon Cave offers some unique insights into the caves below and the animals that inhabit them.

If you are hiking the Green River Bluffs Trail, the spurs to the cave overlook and river viewpoint are both well worth the added time and mileage.

Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

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Other Cool Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park

If you take the Green River Ferry into the northern part of the park, here are a few other epic hikes worth exploring:

Sal Hollow and Buffalo Creek Loop Trail

  • Length: 5.4 miles
  • Starting Point: Maple Springs Trailhead
  • Difficulty: Easy

If you make your way across the Green River on the ferry, the Maple Springs Trailhead is one of the first places you can stop to get on a trail. This loop only gains about 334 feet of elevation over its entire length and there are a couple of viewpoints where you can look down at sections of the Green River.

This hike is forested the entire route, which means it can get a little muddy after heavy rains. Wear long pants to protect yourself against ticks and other insect bites. Dogs are allowed, but they must be kept on leash at all times.

Collie Ridge Loop Trail

  • Length: 10 miles
  • Starting Point: Lincoln Trailhead
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Collie Ridge Loop Trail offers another easy hike but covers a longer distance. It is located in the northwestern part of the park and is most easily accessed via smaller towns like Sweeden, Straw, or Stockholm, Kentucky.

The trail is multi-use, which means you are likely to encounter horseback riders while hiking. Practice proper trail etiquette by moving off the trail to allow horses to pass and keep dogs on a leash at all times.

First Creek Lake Trail

  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Starting Point: First Creek Trailhead or Temple Hill Trailhead
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This hike gains roughly 500 feet of elevation and loops around the small First Creek Lake. It can be muddy after rains and also experiences a good bit of horseback traffic throughout the year. Be prepared for horseback riders and wear long pants to protect yourself from mosquitoes and ticks.

There are also a few backcountry campsites along this trail that can be great places to camp when the weather is nice. If you are interested in backpacking in the park, be sure to go to the visitor’s center for up-to-date trail information and to obtain a backcountry camping permit.

Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

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Good Sam RV Parks near Mammoth Cave National Park

National park campgrounds can get crowded really quickly. If you aren’t able to snag a spot in the park, check out these Good Sam RV parks nearby:

Cave Country RV Campground

Cave Country RV Campground is located in Cave City, Kentucky, which is roughly 20 minutes away from the Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor’s Center. There are 51 full hookup sites in this Good Sam RV resort and some of its best amenities include an exercise run, heated pool, and enclosed dog run.

Singing Hills RV Park

Also located in Cave City, Singing Hills RV Park is approximately 12 minutes away from the visitor’s center. It is a smaller park with 17 full hookup sites and 29 sites in total. They offer Wi-Fi at all overnight sites and the park also features a self-service RV wash and a fishing pond.

Go Deep

I hope this guide has been helpful as you plan your visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. Of course, the premier attractions at this park are the caves themselves. Once you are tired of walking underground, however, we hope you enjoy some of these hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park!

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