Even if you can't make it across the Atlantic Ocean to explore the Catacombs of Paris or afford Australia and New Zealand travel to see the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you don't have to be deprived of underground wonders. Instead, indulge in United States travel and visit Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
Depending on how much investigating you want to do in the caves, some may classify a trip to the caves as adventure travel. However, it's a fascinating place for vacationers from all backgrounds and with a variety of interests to check out. Head to the Bluegrass State and discover what you're missing under the surface.
About halfway between Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, you'll find Mammoth Cave National Park, an underground world that includes five levels of caves. According to National Geographic, the tunnels and caves were first mapped during the 1800s, when a slave began exploring. Since then, nearly 650 kilometres of Mammoth Caves have been surveyed, the U.S. National Park Service explained.
Delve below the surface to see the world's largest cave system, a dark and earthy place with more than 16 kilometres of land to walk through. National Geographic mentioned how new caves are always being discovered in the vast national park, where the Green and Nolin rivers cross.
Mammoth Cave National Park was deemed a World Heritage United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization site in 1981, 40 years after it was established as a national park. According to the UNESCO website, Mammoth Cave fit the bill because of its wide variety of flora and fauna in addition to the characteristic limestone formations. With more than 130 species of animals living in the winding caves, Mammoth has the best variety of cave-dwellers in the world. There's also an array of attributes relating specifically to the structure that qualified Mammoth Cave as a World Heritage site, such as sink holes, underground rivers and springs, underground conduits and cracks in the limestone.
Types of tours
Since the major attraction at Mammoth Cave National Park - the caves themselves - are completely underground, you can visit them any time of the year. However, certain seasons are busier than others, so National Geographic recommended making reservations during summer months, on weekends when the weather is favorable and for holiday trips.
Exploring the caves can be time-consuming and physically taxing, so there's a variety of tours to choose from that cater to different travellers. National Geographic suggested opting for the Mammoth Cave historical tour if you're looking to spend half of the day there. According to TripAdvisor, there's a narrow passageway called Fat Man's Misery along this route, something you shouldn't miss. Other options include the Wild Cave Tour, which National Geographic deemed the most difficult trail. The 8-kilometre tour takes about six hours to complete. There's also the Frozen Niagara Tour, which is offered as a modified route as well. The regular version takes you about 400 metres through the cave, a 75-minute trip total. If you're with a group that doesn't want to walk that much, ask for the tour that only requires a few steps. The River Styx Spring Trail leads you on a river walk, while the Introduction to Caving Tour provides you with a litany of historical facts about the area.
Don't forget to pack good walking shoes with nonslip soles and a jacket for your trip to Mammoth Caves, as it can be a bit chilly underground. While you're at the park, don't miss the chance to go horseback riding, enjoy water activities on the rivers, camp, hike, bike and more.