Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

Sights To See

There is a lot to do and see at Mammoth Cave National Park, both above ground and below. While the cave itself is the main attraction, make sure to check out all the park has to offer, including its massive old-growth trees, diverse bird populations, teeming rivers, striking karst terrain and wild caves. Recreational activities abound at Mammoth Cave—don't limit yourself to a cave tour. Canoe down the beautiful Green River, hike on the rugged North Side, bike on backcountry trails and camp under the stars.

Big Woods

Don't miss Mammoth Cave National Park's 300-acre old-growth forest that's aptly titled "Big Woods." Many of these magnificent trees—the same trees seen by the first settlers in Kentucky—tower 100 feet above the forest floor. This ancient temperate deciduous forest filled with oak and hickory is a union of past and present, a rare example where nature's will has gone unchallenged and unexploited. Note: This area is not signed and has no trails. If you hike here, you need to use a compass and a topo map or GPS.

Frozen Niagara

A visit to Mammoth Cave is not complete without a glimpse of this massive curtain of flowstone. The incredible formation cascades downward for 75 feet, creating the illusion of a stone waterfall and striking wonder into all that see it. Frozen Niagara is located in one of the few areas in Mammoth Cave with the speleothems that most people associate with caves.

Birds Galore

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to approximately 200 species of birds,
with many of them being seen during their migrations twice a year, north
then south. Some of what have been sighted in the park include 37 species
of warblers (17 of these actually call the park their home during the
breeding season), four species of owls, seven species of woodpeckers,
scarlet and summer tanagers, 17 species of sparrows, six species of hawks,
and wild turkeys. The bird-watching near the Green River is also notable
for its diversity: a possible 20 species of ducks and geese, 10 species of
herons and bitterns, not to mention the bald eagle (which has now been
found nesting in the park). Birdwatching during the spring and fall
migrations can show the best diversity and the birds are traveling to their
winter and summer grounds, which can be highlighted by hundreds of sandhill
cranes flying overhead.

A Mammoth Fish

Anglers will find good fishing in Mammoth throughout the year, with spring and summer being most productive. Black bass, crappie, bluegill, muskellunge and catfish—not to mention almost 80 other species—frequent the Green and Nolin Rivers. These rivers support an unusual diversity of fish, as well as over 50 species of freshwater mussels, including seven endangered species. Nolin Lake's tail waters (just north of the park) are stocked with nonnative rainbow trout.

A Wild Cave

Family-friendly tours, such as the half-mile Discovery Tour, highlight Mammoth Cave's history of mining and exploration, as well as the history of its amazing geology. The park also offers wild caving tours for the serious spelunker. Unlike a developed show-cave tour, a wild tour offers no man-made paths and no installed lights. Cavers go fully equipped—coveralls, hard hat, headlamp, boots and knee pads—and get down and dirty, slogging through muddy tunnels and squeezing through cramped crawl spaces.

A Sinkhole

Besides the incredible caverns below, Mammoth's surface acreage includes large tracts of second-growth oak and hickory woodlands, sinkhole-ridden karst topography—the limestone foundation for Mammoth's underground wonders—and modest wetlands. More than 80 miles of trails wind through the park, most of them open to hikers and horseback riders. The Maple Spring Trailhead serves as a jumping-off point for a number of the park's North Side backcountry trails, such as Sal Hollow Trail (nine miles), which winds past caves, sinkholes and springs. The North Side's Good Spring Loop Trail (eight miles) traverses the park's rolling, oak-covered hills, running alongside streams and waterfalls and past small caves.

The "Cave Maker" Up Close

Within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park, 25 miles of the Green River and six miles of the Nolin River carry boaters past dramatic bluffs, scenic woodlands and wildlife. Boating from Dennison Ferry to Houchin Ferry down the Green is a popular 20-mile trip. The Green and Nolin Rivers possess one of the most diverse fish (80 species) and invertebrate populations (over 50 species of mussels) in North America. In addition to the mussels, there are a wide variety of species of benthic macro-invertebrates in these rivers.