Pass time between guided cave tours with one of these five easy and family-friendly hikes at Mammoth Cave Visitor Center.
Hidden deep in the quiet Kentucky hills lies Mammoth Cave National Park, the largest known cave system in the world. More than 400 miles have been explored and according to Wikipedia, “new discoveries and connections add several miles to this figure each year.”
While scheduled cave tours are the national park’s main appeal, several above-ground hikes start at the visitor center and lead to nearby views, sinkholes, cave entrances, and springs. Whether you need to stretch your legs after the drive there or you're simply passing the time between guided tours, here are four of the best family-friendly hikes from Mammoth Cave’s visitor center.
A park favorite, the Heritage Trail to Sunset Point is a fully-accessible path to a spectacular overlook of the Green River Valley. Trailside benches allow visitors to stop and rest along the way, while railings help hikers negotiate some gentle slopes. Averaging less than an hour, this hike is perfect for all ages and abilities and awards some of the best above-ground views in the park.
Just a few moments away, a trip to Dixon Cave leads to a viewing platform above a now-collapsed entrance into the caves. More resemblant of a sinkhole today, the entrance is closed to the public, while bats are still able to make their way into the caves through numerous smaller openings. This short hike can be accessed from the visitor center and hotel (as mapped) or from the nearby picnic area.
Tackled the first two already? Make your way down to the River Styx Spring Trail to see a spring emerging from an underground cave before flowing into the Green River. A nearby viewpoint looks to the river and is spectacular when the fall colors begin to pop.
As the longest route to make the list, the Sinkhole/White’s Cave Loop pairs two lesser-visited trails into a longer 2.6-mile circuit. Spring and summer offer stunning wildflowers and ferns, while deep green moss creeps along the forest floor and along rocky bluffs. "Estimated to be about 500 yards deep," White’s Cave "was once the source of souvenir cave formations pieces" though it is now sealed to protect its natural beauty and the bats that live within.
For more information on cave tours, click here.