Mammoth Cave – Mammoth Cave, Kentucky - Atlas Obscura
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Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave

World's longest known cave. 

Known as the world’s longest cave system, Mammoth Cave earned its name due to its vast size. To date, over 400 miles of the cave’s interconnected passages have been explored, beginning with Native Americans between 2,000 and 8,000 years ago. The cave is so long that if the world’s second and third longest caves were combined, Mammoth Cave would overshadow it by over 100 miles.

The National Park offers a wide array of cave exploring options, some along electrically lit tour routes, while visitors must carry lanterns in other areas. The Wild Cave Tour, requires the use of headlamps and knee pads as this is a spelunking tour where the visitor crawls, slithers, scrambles, and climbs along 5 miles of undeveloped passages. One tour takes the visitor to a portion of the underground river system to view the streams which are present at the lowest level of the cave. Boat tours on Echo River were discontinued in the 1990’s due to contaminants leaching from the boardwalks, which lead to the boat launch.

Above ground, there are a total of 85 miles of trails. Surrounding the visitors’ area there are seven miles of trails which are pave, and entirely accessible. The remaining trails are segregated into hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The karst landscape results in stunning features along the trails, including sinkholes, waterfalls, bluffs, and overlooks.  

Know Before You Go

Cave tour tickets can be purchased in advance on the National Park website. Off season, this is not necessary, but during the summer months it is a good precaution. Tours frequently sell out during peak periods. From the North: Take Interstate 65 to Exit 53 (Cave City Exit). Turn right onto KY-70. Follow 70/255 as it becomes the Mammoth Cave Parkway in the park. Follow the Mammoth Cave Parkway to the Visitor Center.From the South: Take Interstate 65 to Exit 48 (Park City Exit). Turn left onto KY-255 and follow 255 as it becomes the Park City Road into the park. Follow Park City Road until it joins the Mammoth Cave Parkway; turn left. Follow the Mammoth Cave Parkway to the Visitor Center.

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