With over 365 miles of surveyed passageways, geologists think there could be 600 more miles yet to be charted throughout the cave that lies below Mammoth Cave National Park. Known as the longest cave system on earth, it has been explored off and on for the last 4,000 years. The national park offers a selection of below ground tours for curious visitors. Reg reserved the 2-hour Gothic Tour, allowing us a taste of what the ancient explorers found.
A flight of stairs led us down past a dripping waterfall and into the historic entrance of the cave. Our guide led us a mile through several passageways, pointing out some artifacts dating back to the War of 1812 and telling endless stories of historical significance. Ancient graffiti covered the ceiling, left by 19th century explorers who created their names with soot from their candle flame.
The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail runs 16 miles from the park visitor’s center to the town of Park City. We rode about 5.5 miles before turning around…not bad for our first ride of the year. Sections of the mostly crushed rock trail made for a bumpy ride while the plank bridges created a much smoother path.
Getting to the backcountry area of the park required a short ferry ride across the fast-flowing Green River. We had the Big Hollow Loop trail almost completely to ourselves. Recent rains had left some slick, muddy areas. Downed trees lay across the trail in a few spots, requiring us to climb up and over.
Two full days to explore the park was plenty for us. If you want to take advantage of several different cave tours then three or four days might be better. Either way, Mammoth Cave National Park is definitely worth the stop. Now, on to West Virginia…