Located in Cave City, Kentucky, is one of our country’s most unique national parks. Mammoth Cave National Park, named for the cave’s massive size, offers a variety of tours for people of all ages and abilities, year-round. While many parks lack visitors in the winter because of frigid temperatures, Mammoth Caves is a great option because underground, the temperature stays around 54 degrees (F) all year round. Below are tour options, what you’ll see & why you should make Mammoth Caves your next adventure!
There are many tours happening all year round. For the winter tours, head over to the National Park’s website to see their listings. The winter season runs from October 29, 2017 – March 9, 2018. It’s also very important to watch the website for emergency alerts due to winter weather. The park was closed two days before I was planning to visit! Luckily it was up and running again the next day. Sometimes harsh winter storms block roads and make the impassable.
As well, the tours listed on the website are all of the tours offered, however, they may vary day to day. The park opens at 8:30 a.m. and I recommend getting there early to see what tours are scheduled for the day, as well to ensure you can purchase a ticket. Each tour has a select number of spots, and some even require reservations ahead of time. Make sure to do your research before you go!
There were four options the morning I arrived. I chose the Frozen Niagara tour because it is unique in that it brings you to a section of the cave filled with stalactites and other formations you don’t find in other parts of the cave.
Tip: Other tours see this section of the cave entirely too! The longer tours include: Domes & Dripstones, Introduction to Caving, Grand Avenue and Wild Cave Tours.
The are 400 square miles of discovered caves to explore, so look through the tour options thoroughly and decide which one is best for you!
A perk of going in the winter is that there are less visitors. We had eight people on our tour, including the guides! This allowed the tour to be personalized and we could ask questions and each spend plenty of time getting a good look at the cave features because it wasn’t crowded.
You enter the caves on this tour through a man-made entrance. Once inside your eyes will adjust to the darkness and you will begin to see stunning formations immediately. Walk through narrow passages and around beautiful natural formations of stalactites and travertine dams hanging from the ceiling.
Tip: No-flash photography is allowed inside the caves! I was able to take the best pictures with my iPhone. There are forums with tips for taking pictures inside the caves on DSLR cameras.
Eventually you will make your way to a vast opening in the cave. There is a natural spring with water falling from the ceiling. When snow melts in the spring and when there is a rainstorm there will be a heavy flow of water. But even without those factors there is always water dripping from this spot in the ceiling!
And, it’s right next to the best part of the tour: the Frozen Niagara. There is an optional part of the tour for those wishing to descend below and behind this “frozen waterfall.” It involves 49 steps down and 49 steps back up, and it is totally worth it! This was my favorite part of the tour. You were up-close and personal with this amazing phenomena, and you could see parts of the cave hidden by the Frozen Niagara.
Be sure to ask your rangers plenty of questions and take the time to learn about the history of these impressive caves and how they came to be. There are so many unique tours and it was a completely different experience than I’ve ever had.