Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park

Last Updated on April 9, 2021

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the world’s largest known cave system. The park also has miles of hiking trails aboveground, however. Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park is a great way to get acquainted with the park for those who don’t want to go underground.

I’ll be honest. I’m not the biggest fan of caves. I don’t actively actively dislike them or anything, I just don’t find caves especially compelling.

Since my husband Daniel and I were in a hurry to get south before winter set in on our Great America Road Trip, our visit was brief. I decided to skip the cave tour (which seems like a bad idea anyway during a pandemic) and go Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park instead.

We arrived at the park in the evening just before a storm hit so I couldn’t explore any trails until the following morning. Daniel and I planned to hit the road around noon so it was a short one. There were plenty of trails to explore near the visitor center, so to start hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park all I had to do was walk out the front door.

Welcome to Mammoth Cave National Park!
The entrance to Mammoth Cave as seen from up the hill on a hiking trail

Hiking Gear

Before heading out on any hike I first check to make sure I have the right gear. This list includes some of my favorite gear for day hiking.

  • Hiking Shoes – Sturdy hiking or walking shoes are a must. Personally, I’m a big fan of Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes.
  • Socks – Good thick socks are also important. I usually wear a pair of double-walled Wrightsock Coomesh II socks with my Altras. For longer hikes, I switch to Injinji Midweight socks to prevent toe blisters.
  • Backpack – A backpack is essential so you can carry water, layers, and snacks. I love Ospreys and use the Osprey Manta pack which is technically a men’s pack (because I have a longer torso than most women). The women’s equivalent is the Osprey Mira pack.
  • Hiking Poles – Hiking poles reduce pressure on your joints and help maintain your balance if you trip. My current favorites are the LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles.
  • Camera – I love taking photos and always bring a camera along on my hiking trips. I use the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II because it is lightweight yet has many advanced features.
  • Electronics – if you are using your phone for navigation, bring a portable battery such as the Anker portable battery charger. For longer hikes or backpacking trips in areas without cell receptionv, consider bringing a Garmin InReach Explorer. This is a Personal Locator Device (PLB) that enables you to trigger a SOS call to search and rescue and 2-way texting over satellite.

Hiking the White’s Cave-Sinkhole-Heritage Trail Loop

I began hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park by starting on a trail towards the campground until I found the White’s Cave Trail. White’s Cave is currently closed, but I got to see the entrance. From there I joined the Sinkhole Trail. This led to the Mammoth Dome Sink, a dip in the ground which was formed by water making its way into the cavern below.

At the end of the path, I briefly explored the Heritage Trail before heading back. This short wheelchair-accessible trail leads the Sunset Point Overlook. It’s the best viewpoint I encountered on my hike today (although there wasn’t much of a view today).

White’s Cave
The entrance to White’s Cave is currently sealed off
White’s Cave Trail
Mammoth Dome Sink
Scenic overlook on the Sinkhole Trail
View from Sunset Point Overlook
Heritage Trail

Mammoth Cave Hiking Trails and Maps

Maps related to my hiking adventures are available below. If I had more time to explore, I would have visited Echo River Springs or the Cedar Sink Trail. Official maps from the National Park Service are available here: Mammoth Cave Maps.

White’s Cave-Sinkhole-Heritage Trail Loop Trail

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Here is the route I took on my hike. This is supposed to be a loop but I forgot to start the tracking program at the hike’s beginning.

White’s Cave-Sinkhole-Heritage Trail Loop Trail

Sinkhole Trail

  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 357 feet

I only hiked a portion of this trail on my visit. The highlight is the Mammoth Dome Sinkhole which is above Mammoth Cave.

Heritage Trail Loop

  • Distance: .8 mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 42 feet

This short family-friendly trail follows a boardwalk through the woods.

Mammoth Cave National Park Accommodations

Mammoth Cave National Park has three developed campgrounds as well as several backcountry web sites. Since we arrived on a weekend with no reservation, the campgrounds were all full. Fortunately, we were able to secure a cute little cottage next to the visitor center in the middle of the park. The Lodge at Mammoth Park offers offers hotel rooms in addition to the cottages for those who are so inclined.

Our tiny cabin at Mammoth Cave National Park
The main building for the Lodge at Mammoth Cave. This is next to the visitor center.
Historic National Park poster. This is as close as we got to seeing inside Mammoth Cave.

More Resources about Mammoth Cave National Park

Where are we now?

We are at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky!

Dates: October 23 & 24, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Days 110 & 111
Total Trip Mileage: 7947.9

Day 110 Starting Location: Beech Fork State Park – Barboursville, WV
Day 110 Ending Location: Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
Day 110 Miles Traveled: 263.6

Day 111 Starting Location: Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
Day 111 Ending Location: Graceland RV Park & Campground – Memphis, TN
Day 111 Miles Traveled: 291.8

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

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4 thoughts

  1. Damn, if I knew you were crossing KY and so close to Cincinnati I would have invited you over for dinner. Love reading about your adventures! If you come near Cincinnati again and need a place to stay, let me know. Phil (aka Capt Underpants)

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