Mammoth Cave National Park delivers in a huge way

View of the interior of Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, circa 1960. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
View of the interior of Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, circa 1960. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /

When the draw of your park hinges on caves, that park had better have some pretty gosh darn impressive caves. And in the case of Mammoth Cave National Park, that has certainly proven to be the case for several decades.

Located in Kentucky, this park is home to the longest known cave system in the world. While it draws in millions of visitors every year to check it out, there’s a lot more to Mammoth Cave than that. That being said, you really should still check the caves out.

Establishing Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park
UNITED STATES – 2021/06/05: View of Mountain Lake in the Moran State Park on Orcas Island, San Juan Islands in Washington State, United States. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

At nearly 53 thousand acres, this is a massive park, to say the least. It was originally established in 1941 and has gone through more than a few changes since then. And they have, for the most part, been incredibly positive ones.

Like many of the National Parks in the US, this one was established around a central feature. It started with Mammoth Cave. But in 1972, it was unified with Flint Ridge system, making it an even larger and more impressive experience.

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As if being a National Park wasn’t enough, Mammoth Cave was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and a Biosphere Reserve in 1990. The unique environment is intriguing to virtually everyone. Well, maybe not people who are claustrophobic or don’t like being underground.

The Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System

These caves have long been a huge draw for tourists. Before Mammoth Cave was established, each of the many caves had different owners. This was the era of the Kentucky Cave Wars when these owners feuded over tourist dollars.

Things have calmed down a lot since then, fortunately. After the connection between Mammoth and Flint was finally discovered, the number of visitors has only increased since then, as have the reasons to explore the system.

Naturally, there are a variety of ways to access Mammoth Cave as well as numerous safe ways to enjoy it. On top of that, these caves are home to several forms of bats as well as cave exclusive forms of salamanders, crayfish, shrimp, and two types of eyeless cave fish.

What to do in Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park
COLLEGE PARK, MD – MAY 03: Colette Lord, 20, an ecology and evolution student at the University of Maryland, heads into a wooded area on campus to measure the soil temperature on May 03, 2021 in College Park, Maryland. The soil measured 58 degrees, six degrees cooler than necessary for the periodical cicadas from Brood X to emerge. Lord is part of a 15 students who are measuring and monitoring the area for the rise of billions of the airborne insects who have been eating and growing under ground for 17 years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) /

The cave system is, of course, the main draw. You can go on guided tours, which are an exceptional way to experience the Mammoth-Flint Cave System. But it’s also important to remember that this is a fully functioning National Park.

There are traditional activities like hiking, biking, and horseback riding. On top of that, there’s a lot to do on the water like boating and fishing. Plus, Mammoth Cave has excellent camping options. And the stargazing here is reputed to be exceptional.

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Kentucky is an interesting state and Mammoth Cave National Park is one of its more engaging features. There’s a reason why people flock to this park, and why it’s more than worth planning a vacation trip to.