Friday, July 10, 2020
We admit it, we are National Park Geeks. Our goal is to eventually see ALL 62 U.S. National Parks plus as many National Monuments and National Historic Sites as we possibly can. That is what led us to add Mammoth Cave National Park to the back end of this trip.
We had of course heard about Mammoth Cave and some friends had visited here and told us more about it. When we were looking at the map we realized it would be an easy tag onto the Smoky Mountains loop. If we were to do it again, we would have put it in between Nashville and the Smoky Mountains. The logistics would have made more sense but we had already booked our Smoky Mountains campground and knew that it was unlikely we could move those dates or find another campground as we had almost not found a place to stay to begin with.
Mammoth Cave National Park is located north of Nashville, TN and south of Louisville, KY. I would say it is a one day stop on your road trip. You do not need any more than one day to see the cave and walk or bike some of the trails in the park. Now, we did visit during the COVID-19 pandemic (stupid coronavirus) so all but one of the cave tours were closed. If you are really into caves and like doing some of the more intense tours through them you may be able to spend two days entertaining yourself. We were able to do the Historic Tour which took you into the second level of the cave. You are able to walk about a mile into the cave and back. It was pretty neat.
The cave is massive, hence the name Mammoth Cave! We only saw a small portion of it as that was all that was open. Keep in mind that Johnny is claustrophobic and he HATES caves. He had to pump himself up to go into the cave and by the time we came out I thought he was going to have a panic attack. So much so that he wouldn’t even stop for a picture at the mouth of the cave and he loves to take our family selfies. LOL! Our favorite part of the cave was how cool it was. It stays at a constant 52 degrees which felt fantastic after our hike.
We have now been to three caves, Blanchard Springs Caverns in Mountain Home, Arkansas, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I have to say, we still think the neatest and prettiest cave we’ve been in is Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas. It is a “living cave” so it is still forming and has a lot of stalagmites and stalactites that you can see. I’d would rank Mammoth Cave number two on our cave list.
We actually arrived at the park a few hours early so that we could check out the hiking and biking trails. The park offers both and after some deliberation we decided we wanted to try some hikes. So, off we went. We did a trail that took you around a loop through the park and along a creek. It ended up being around 4 miles after I had to double back and find our boys. Yep, Logan and Noah took a wrong turn and got lost. I can laugh about it now but at the time I was having a panic attack. They were smart, they just went back to the start of the trail and thank goodness we had cell phone service so I was able to call Logan and find out where they were. What’s really funny is that they took the wrong turn because they were getting along for once and were deep in conversation about video games and lagging behind the rest of us. They just missed a very easy to miss turn at one of the look outs. Logan said when he looked up we were gone. So, I doubled back about 1/2 a mile and found them then we went on with our hike. The landscape is not unlike Arkansas and it was a nice hike. Our favorite part was toward the end when we were coming up a hill near the cave entrance. As we were coming up the hill it felt like someone had turned on the air conditioner. It went from steamy hot to a very cool breeze very suddenly. Turns out it was because we were so close to the cave entrance and the cool air was spilling out down the hill.
We are glad we made the decision to stop and see Mammoth Cave but we are also glad we didn’t try to spend any more time there. One day was plenty to see what we wanted to see. If you visit, there is a bigger town about 15-minutes outside of Cave City. It has plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, etc.
Now it’s time to go home. We are bringing this adventure to a close and preparing our minds to get back to the daily grind. Thank you for traveling along with us!