Spelunking refers to the recreational exploration of caves. Sound interesting? And perhaps a little frightening? At Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky you can dip your big toe into the sport on easy and safe guided cave tours. If you are somewhat adventurous as my family was, we booked every possible tour we could fit into our week. We needed a sign painted by a local painter that read, “Seeking MAMMOTH Adventure!” And if you beyond adventurous and down right daring, the park offers the wild cave tour. It too is guided, but not lighted or widened for easy passage and is much more adventurous, challenging and requires spelunkers to be excellent physical condition.
While visiting Mammoth Cave National Park you simply must camp. There is a well-kept modern camp within walking distance of the starting point for cave tours. A bath house provides warm showers and laundry facilities for when you’ve gone through everything in your backpack twice.
If primitive (and free) camping is more your preference, Mammoth Cave offers that as well. Just down the road you will find a painted sign directing you to Houchen Ferry Campground where several primitive sites are located. Be sure to pick up your free Back-country Use Permit and you can camp anywhere along the banks or on the islands of Green River or Nolin Rivers. The permit is to register your presence so that rangers can notify you in case of flood risk since the camping zone is in a flood plane. The permit also assists park employees to give accurate usage counts in annual reports.
The cave system runs 390 miles with smaller adjoining rooms and tunnels bringing it closer to 1000 miles. The temperature in the cave is a constant 54′ year round. There is a river and lake with its entirety contained within the cave system. On Echo Lake you can take a boat ride and experience the total darkness of the caves as well as the natural acoustics of sound. There are fish in the lake that have no eyes as they have never needed them as they live in total darkness.
In addition to cave tours campers at Mammoth Cave may also enjoy a guided boat tour along Green River, kayaking, biking, horseback riding and hiking. There is certainly no shortage of activities to choose from for you Mammoth Camping Trip!