I'm sure there are at least a couple other places to visit in Kentucky, but I only stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park which I had been wanting to visit for awhile. I was even more excited after wonderful cave experiences in Thailand and Laos.

My Favorites

1. Mammoth Cave National Park

Grand Avenue Tour

Highlights: Cave
Suggest Staying: 1-2 days
Stay Around: Mammoth Cave Campground
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Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world, reaching an astounding 405 miles. This doesn’t mean it’s the largest cave, just the longest connection of rooms, some of which are quite large. This cave is one of the most diverse in terms of formations that I’ve seen.

See & Do

  • Grand Avenue Cave Tour. 4 miles, 4 hours. Most popular, largest variety of things to see. If you have time for only one tour, do this one. Covers most of what you are able to see in the cave.
  • Great Onyx. 1 mile, 2.25 hours. Only happens seasonally during the fall. Most pristine part of Mammoth Cave that you can visit. Guided by lantern. Pretty special tour if you can do it.
  • Historic Cave Tour. 2 miles, 2 hours.
  • Cleveland Avenue. 2 miles, 2 hours. Another popular tour.
  • Domes and Dripstones. 0.75 miles, 2 hours.


  • Reservations. If you go during peak season or on a weekend, be sure to reserve your cave tour early, at least a day in advance, but ideally more. You can only visit the cave by guided tour and slots fill up.
  • Fees. The park is free, but you pay for the cave tours.
  • White Nose Syndrome (WNS) (Important!). This terrible fungal disease is killing off bats at an alarming rate across America. Mammoth Cave unfortunately has WNS, so when you leave, they will have you disinfect your shoes by walking on a giant sponge of cleaner disinfectant. However, other caves that don’t have WNS will still ask you not to wear anything into their cave if you have visited a cave with WNS within the last 10 years. So, to be a responsible person, plan to never again wear these clothes in another cave that has not contracted WNS. This includes jacket, shirt, pants, especially shoes, backpack, etc. It doesn’t affect humans, but bats catch it and effectively can’t breathe, freak out, use up all their energy and die. Millions of bats have died as a result, so do your part to avoid spreading it! Bats are critical to our survival, they kill disease carrying insects like mosquitoes. Plus they are super cool animals.
  • Mammoth Campground. If you stay at Mammoth Campground, note that the showers only accept tokens, not quarters. You must exchange quarters for tokens at the store which closes early at 6pm (I think). There is also laundry.

2. Lexington


One of the more liberal cities in Kentucky, Lexington is a nice stopover if you’re in the area. Healthy food options and some historical areas. Lots of horses and related activities in Kentucky if that’s your thing. If you’re a rock climber, the very popular Red River Gorge is not far, with plenty of cheap options for accommodations. Miguel’s Pizza for example has sparse $2 camping spots. The gorge is pretty regardless of the rock climbing. Very foresty with some streams. I camped the night, but the weather was rainy and there had just been record flooding in the area so I didn’t get to much unfortunately. Not too far is Cumberland Falls State Park with a pretty massive stream and waterfall that offers a nice picnic stop en route to Lexington if you’re coming from the south. Also nearish is Big Bone Lick which is home to a group of bison and houses remnants of ancient mammoths. A neat stop if it’s on your way, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit.

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