Mammoth Cave National Park by Campervan
By Carrie Willink
A beautiful 5-hour drive from the Atlanta, GA Escape depot, you will find a very unique National Park called Mammoth Cave! It’s located in Kentucky and home to the world’s longest underground cave system. It’s so long, in fact, that no one actually knows how long it is! 400 miles of underground caves and passageways have been surveyed, but the caves extend even beyond that, though not accessible.
Before we visited in our campervan, I was concerned if my girls would like it or be scared or unable to do the hikes. We were pleasantly surprised by how family-friendly everything was and how the tour guides took the time to help our kids not only enjoy their time but also learn! We were surprised by how awe-inspiring the caves were. There is so much beauty in the dark.
Tours at Mammoth Cave
The caves are not accessible without paying for a tour. I bought a few tickets ahead of time online and we bought more at the visitor’s center when we arrived. They are very organized with many different tours and times. For caves that are not within walking distance of the visitor’s center, they have a free shuttle system set up.
There are self-guided tours available at certain times (which still require an admission fee) but I suggest going with a guide. The guides are friendly, informative, and keep bats out of your hair. Okay, that last part I’m not sure about, but that’s what I told myself anyway. The caves are absolutely amazing but even more amazing hearing how they were formed, found and the stories that make our history!
This tour was perfect for our family. The young kids (3-6) were able to walk the whole time and loved hearing all the information. They did cool tricks with the lights and shared the history of the caves. This cave will truly show you why the park is called “Mammoth.” It’ll blow your mind!
Frozen Niagara Tour
This tour is unique with many formations. You’ll be able to see all the different formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites! Be sure and watch your head! 🙂 There are a few stairs but the tour is still considered ‘easy’ and your kids will love it too!
There are many other tours so be sure and read up to what fits you and your family!
Where to Camp
We stayed right on property at “Mammoth Cave National Parks” campground. The part we stayed in had no hook ups but bathrooms and showers for quarters. There was also a place to buy a few basic items, firewood and a washer/dryer for a charge.
The campground was so beautiful with it’s towering trees and calm atmosphere. In the summer it can get pretty warm and humid in Kentucky so keep that in mind!
Other Things to Know
Inside the park, there is a restaurant with cafeteria-style food and ice cream which is perfect in the summer after a hot hike. They also have gift shops so your little ones can bring home a souvenir, or you can too 😉
Be sure pack with the weather in mind for this trip. If you are going in the hot summer you will still need sweatshirts and sometimes coats for the caves. It stays very cold underground!
Check ahead of time for closures. If there has been a lot of snow or ice they will have to close certain areas of the caves. So if you have your heart set on one, you might not get in. In the summer months if there is a lot of rain certain areas may be closed as well. Their website should have updated information.
They have quite a few rules on what you can bring into the caves. Be sure and go over this before you get there and are disappointed. If you have younger kids who don’t want to walk, you are allowed to have a front cloth pack. No back carriers are allowed.
If you are wanting pictures you may want to practice your skills in low light settings ahead of time. It’s very dark in the caves and hard to get a good picture.
Outside the Park
One of our favorite tours was actually outside of the park called “Diamond Cave.” It was first found when the slave of the landowner came upon a hole. They lowered the bravest man the could find in town down the hole. He saw the sparkling calcite formations and exclaimed “diamonds!” Hence where the name “Diamond Cave” came from.
It was truly a gorgeous cave with sparkles and the coolest formations. Be sure and take time to see this between your other Mammoth cave tours! It’s $13.00 a ticket. Tours run about every 45 min.
Life-size dinosaurs that will have your kiddo’s wide-eyed and excited!
Hope this helps as you plan your trip to Kentucky and book your campervan rental! Such an amazingly unique place to visit. Fantastic for families and for hikers or non-hikers. Get out there and have a blast!