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Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

by Jill & Cathy on October 26, 2012

I LOVE to travel!  Luckily, my boys feel the same way.  My husband is always worrying what I am planning next.  Usually our fall breaks occur at different times but this year we got lucky.  Of course we had to take advantage of our shared time off so we were off to Mammoth Cave National Park in Cave City, Kentucky.  We had traveled here once before earlier this summer but our boys were disappointed that we had only planned a two hour cave tour.  (The summer season is busy so if you don’t make tour reservations ahead of time, you will be out of luck.)


We got lucky with the weather; it was a gorgeous 81 degree fall day.  The drive was beautiful with the leaves changing colors – we took this amazing photo at the park entrance.  Doesn’t it look perfect outside?

When we arrived at the visitor’s center we had about an hour to wait.  Their new visitors center just opened, complete with a walk through museum that told about the history of the cave.  It was a great time filler and the boys learned about how caves form and how they are still mapping Mammoth Cave.


Our first tour this day was the Historic Tour.  It started at the natural entrance of the cave.  This is definitely a tour that involves a little bit of true hiking.  Caves are always cool – Mammoth Cave is consistently 54 degrees year round.  We all wore shorts for the first tour with heavy sweatshirts.  Grant and I decided to switch into pants for the second tour but Doug and Spencer were fine in shorts.

We loved the Historic Tour because, as the name suggests, we learned a great deal about the history of the cave.  Both boys could follow the history and were never bored.  The boys also enjoyed the passage known as Fat Man’s Misery.  This is a place where everyone has to do a little squeezing and even the children have to duck a little at the end.  Our boys enjoyed every bit of the hike and never complained until we left the cave and had to climb a final set of stairs and walk up the hill that leads back to the visitor’s center.

We scheduled our tours so that we would have 45 minutes in between the two.  This was enough time for the boys to get a snack and go to the restroom.  It also gave them a little time to rest their legs which they needed.

 Our second tour began at 5:00 and was called the Star Chamber Tour.  This tour was unique because instead of the electric lights being on throughout the cave, we carried lanterns for our light.  The two tours began in the same spot and the first ¾ of a mile were the same.  However, because the second was by lantern light there were new things to enjoy.  This tour still included a great deal of history.  We learned about a tuberculosis hospital that was within the cave for a short time and got to see a large room known as the Star Chamber.  We saw two old tricks from tours of the past and got to tour a special passageway known as Gothic Avenue (a passageway only shown to visitors on the Star Chamber Tour.)

 Both of our tours this day were led by Ranger Sue.  Like all of the Rangers we have encountered at national parks, she was very knowledgeable about the caves and able to answer every question asked.  You can tell she enjoys her job which makes the tours even better.

An extra plus at the end of our day was the trip back to our hotel.  We spotted 10 deer right by the side of the road.  The boys said they had never seen so many deer in one place!

If you’re looking for an educational and fun day for your family – check out Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world.  This is our second time visiting and our boys are already talking about the next time we come.  I think our next tour will be the Snowball Tour.  This is a longer tour (4 hours) but unique because halfway through you stop for a break in the Snowball Room where they have a concession stand.  If you’re looking for a tour with a large variety of formations, check out the New Entrance Tour.  This was our choice last summer.

~ Cathy

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