A Quick Family Friendly Trip to Mammoth Cave National Park
We stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park as a pit stop on our 2.5 week family road trip. We planned a 1/2 day at the park and it was the perfect amount of time and the perfect speed for our family. We were there at the peak of summer travel on a Monday afternoon and it was not very busy at all, I would almost say it was slow. I can imagine a weekend would be very packed but remember this is a small park.
For reference we traveled with a 3 and 7 year old and we choose to take an easy, quick, and abbreviated tour of the park. But don’t let that deter you, we still had a wonderful time, and made the most of our afternoon!
As always, this is our version of a trip. All depictions and information is solely based on our experience. I hope you use this as a reference for your next amazing adventure!!!
Here is how we spent an afternoon at the park with our 3 and 7 year old:
Your first stop when you get to Mammoth Cave National Park should be the visitors center. The visitors center is the perfect place to get your cave tour tickets, grab a souvenir, use the restroom, and have a snack before you start your tour of the cave.
Make sure to make a quick stop and check out the museum which is located within the visitors center. It’s great resource and has interactive displays that the kids will really enjoy!
Pick Your Tour
You will need a ticket for your tour. Click here for the most updated tour price and schedule. It’s my understanding that they will sell out so I suggest you pre-purchase them. Self-guided tours will need tickets too but can be purchased the day-of and times are based upon availability. You may have to choose a time later in the day, so plan to get your tickets first, then sightsee around the visitors center.
They offer so many tours of all lengths and for all abilities. We made the decision to take the Self-Guided Tour and it was the best decision for us! We could go at our own pace, for as long or short as we needed, and we didn’t have to worry about the kids acting up. We knew that a two+ hour, multi mile trip was not our speed at this time, and that’s ok.
We decided on the Self-Guided Tour and started at the historic opening of the cave system. You can get there easily from the visitors center.
The initial walk down to the historic open is a winding paved path and is stroller friendly.
Note: You will not be able to take your stroller into the cave but it was worth it for us to take it to the mouth. The rangers will guide you were to leave it while you are in the cave. It can be a little strenuous of a walk on the way back up and it came in clutch for us!
Once at the historic entrance you will walk down several flights of steep steps. Our 7 year old did great and our 3 year old did good as well. We chose to have him walk, as most baby carriers are not accepted, and we thought he would enjoy exploring on his own.
I suggest taking a thin jacket. The cave can be a little chilly. We were there in the heat of the July summer and it was so refreshing, but we were glad to have our jackets.
The self-guided tour took us about 45 minutes to complete from start to finish. Within this stretch of the cave system you will see the Rotunda and will get to experience some amazing history. This part of the cave does not continue on, you will have a stopping point where you will have to turn around. There are also multiple rangers along the trail to guide you and answer any questions.
We were here in the mid-afternoon and packed a picnic lunch. There are multiple opportunities when driving through the park to stop at picnic tables. The visitors center also has tables for picnics.
There are a few small outfits for snacks but I am not aware of a full restaurant.
After our hike we were wanting a snack and Spelunkers Ice Cream Parlor as the perfect treat! The cafe is located just over the bridge from the visitors center near the lodge.
Jr. Ranger Program
If you are traveling with a child you must check out the Junior Ranger Program!
Each park has different qualifications and age limits, so make sure to check out the website before. My 7 year old was on the younger end of the program and he had no trouble successfully accomplishing all of the activities.
Pick up a book from a Ranger, complete the activities, take the oath, and collect your badge.
Check back soon for a link to my sons Jr. Ranger journey!
5 Tips for your trip to Mammoth Cave National Park:
- Pre-Purchase your cave tour tickets before you arrive. If you are going on the self-guided tour make sure to get your tickets the day-of and give yourself ample time.
- Take a light jacket when inside the cave.
- Pack a picnic and enjoy one of the picnic sites.
- Participate in the Junior Ranger Program.
- Visit the museum and gift shop at the Visitors Center.
Ok, more like 6 tips…if you are traveling with a young toddler or baby. Do yourself the favor do take your stroller to the mouth of the cave.