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Heading to Mammoth Cave National Park with kids and wondering what to do in Mammoth Cave with kids? We’ve got you covered! Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit with kids and fairly easy to get to from several major cities. Read on for what to do in Mammoth Cave National Park with kids.
How to get to Mammoth Cave National Park
If you are flying in, the closest airport will be either Louisville or Nashville, just 1 hour and 20 minutes from the park. Cincinnati is just under a 3 hour drive, St. Louis 4.5 hours and Indianapolis 3 hours, making Mammoth Cave National Park easily accessible from several different cities. Unlike other National Parks, there is no entry fee to enter the park however you have to pay for any cave tours you do.
Best time to visit Mammoth Cave National Park
Wondering what the best time to visit Mammoth Cave National Park is? The cave is a constant 54 degrees, even in the summer months so keep that in mind when visiting and booking cave tours. The park itself is open 24 hours a day (there is no gate to enter), but more enjoyable in the spring, summer and fall before the cold winter temperatures arrive.
There are more tours available in the summer months, however it’s also more crowded so keep that in mind when deciding on a time to visit! We came the first week of April and weather was perfect, mostly in the 70s with cool nights.
Where to stay when visiting Mammoth Cave National Park
Camping in Mammoth Cave National Park
The Mammoth Cave Campground is located just 1/4 mile from the visitors center. The campground has both tent and RV sites and reservations are available March 1-November 30.
Best Family-Friendly Hotel near Mammoth Cave National Park
If you’re looking for the best kid-friendly hotel near Mammoth Cave, The Lodge at Mammoth Cave is located inside the park, making it the best option for your family. You won’t have to drive far to see the sites. We stayed here for 2 nights, in the Sunset Terrace room, and had a great experience. We could walk out our door and have several trails at our disposal. The cave entrance was just a 3 minute walk, as was the visitor’s center. If you don’t want to be driving in and out to the park or if you have limited time, staying inside the park is your best option.
If you prefer to stay outside of the park, Cave City is about 15 minutes from the park and has several family friendly hotels near Mammoth Cave National Park.
AirBnB near Mammoth Cave National Park
Prefer your own space? Then an AirBnB might be your best option.
Things to bring when visiting Mammoth Cave National Park with kids
- National Parks Journal: We bring our National Parks Journal on every trip and Milana fills it out as we go.
- Sweatshirt or jacket: Even in the summer months, you’ll need a sweatshirt since the cave is a cool 54 degrees.
- Bug Spray: Especially in the summer months. All of the gift shops inside the park sold this because it’s that needed!
- Flashlight: It’s super dark inside the cave and most people had flashlights to be able to see where they are walking as well as what they were looking at. You can use your phone’s flashlight, but I would also bring one for the kids so they can explore!
Books and games about National Parks
Things to do in Mammoth Cave National Park With Kids
Take a Cave Tour
One of the most popular things to do in Mammoth Cave National Park is to take a cave tour. There are many to choose from and at busy times, you will need a reservation. We opted for the Extended Historic Tour, which was self-guided at the time we visited which we prefer. This tour is about 2 miles long if you do the entire thing and keep in mind that there are steps to get to the start so make sure everyone in your party can walk up and down steps easily.
If you are traveling with young kids or those with mobility issues, you may want to opt for the Frozen Niagara Cave Tour. It’s the easiest and most family friendly cave tour in Mammoth Cave, with only 12 stairs to navigate.
If you have visited other caves around the world, you may have been asked if you’ve ever worn the same clothes/shoes during your visit. This is because there are many devastating diseases that will kill off bat populations and it’s suggested to not wear the same items when visiting the different caves. In Mammoth cave, the white nose syndrome has killed off a huge portion of the cave’s bat population. At the conclusion of your tour, you will be required to walk on bio-security mats filled with soapy solution to help curb the spread of this disease.
Looking for the best kid-friendly hiking trails in Mammoth Cave National Park? Well you’re in luck because there are a ton of trails suitable for young kids! Lots of the trails are located near the Visitor’s Center so if you’re staying at the Lodge, you can simply walk outside and start your hikes.
Best Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails in Mammoth Cave National Park
- Sand Cave Trail: This is a super short 0.1 mile trail on a boardwalk, right at the entrance to the park. Once you get to the end, you can view the cave from the viewing area. If you have older, more stable footed kids, you can hike down to the actual cave which we did along with many others.
- Sinkhole Trail: This is a 2.4 mile out and back trail, with fairly easy terrain. We walked out of our room and started this trail just minutes later.
- Echo River Spring Trail: Another out and back trail, this one 2.2 miles. You’ll be walking along the river and at the end, you will see the Green River Ferry which is fun for kids to watch as it transports vehicles from one side to the other.
- Green River Bluffs and Heritage Loop: This is a fun, 2.4 mile loop trail with fairly easy terrain. There are some spots with moderate inclines but for the most parts you’ll be walking on flat ground.
Junior Ranger Program
Just like all of the other National Parks, Mammoth Cave has a Junior Ranger program where your kids complete a booklet about the park and earn a badge. The biggest difference here is that you can’t just get the booklet for free at a ranger station, you have to purchase it for $2 at the gift shop.
Just minutes from the Visitor’s Center is Adventures of Mammoth Cave, where you can go on a horse trail ride for just $30/hour. Milana loves horses so we always seek horse rides wherever we go. There’s lots of other activities here, including ziplining and an aerial adventure course which looked super fun!
Big Mike’s Rock Shop & Mystery House
Another fun thing to do with kids near Mammoth Cave is to visit one of the many rock shops you will pass on the way into the park. We stopped at Big Mike’s because Milana saw the Mystery House sign and really wanted to do it. For $2 a person, you can go into the mystery house and see all kinds of optical illusions. I won’t spoil the fun but it’s worth the $2 entry fee.
Where to eat near Mammoth Cave National Park with kids
There aren’t many options right at the park, but Cave City is less than 15 minutes away with lots of restaurants. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for healthy food, this isn’t the place for that. They had a ton of fast food and the sit down restaurants weren’t very healthy. Since we were driving from Nashville and staying at the Lodge at Mammoth Cave for 2 nights, we stopped at Whole Foods on the way to grab some fresh fruit and light meals for those 2 days. There’s a supermarket in Cave City too however it’s pretty small and not well stocked so if there are specific items you want, bring your own.
We aren’t fans of Cracker Barrel at all, however it’s one of the very few restaurants in Cave City and one that was open on Easter Sunday, which is when we visited. Popular with families with lots of options on the menu.
Green River Grill
If you’re staying at the Lodge at Mammoth Cave, this restaurant is located right by it, inside of the park. It was only open for dinner during our visit and completely booked, so we didn’t get to try it.
Spelunkers Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor
Another place located inside the park, right by the visitor’s center. They have grab and go breakfast and lunch as well as ice cream.
Turtlelini’s Pizza and Pasta
Another family friendly restaurant near Mammoth Cave is this pizza place. It’s about 20 minutes away and worth the drive! The pizza here is really good, reminded us of Jersey style pizza with a thin crust. Not the thick cake like pizza we have in SoCal! The food is good and the staff is friendly. Milana ordered the ham and cheese sub, which was great as well! There’s a playground across the street, so you can take your food to go and go sit at one of the picnic tables if your kids want to play.
Farmwald Dutch Bakery and Deli
If you only visit one restaurant, make it this one! This is by far the best restaurant near Mammoth Cave. Amish owned and operated, they have a ton of freshly baked goods (you can even see them baking in the back through the windows) and lots of food options. We opted for the sandwiches, which were on their freshly baked sourdough, and they were great! We also got a glazed donut which sounds simple but it was the best one we’ve ever had. I was tempted to go back for a dozen more! Give this place a try, the women working here are super friendly.
As you can see, there are lots of things to do with kids in Mammoth Cave National Park. We recommend setting aside 2 days to explore the cave and different trails. Be sure to check out our other National Park guides to help plan your trips to National Parks with kids.