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Mammoth Cave National Park Hiking: 9 Best Hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park (2023)

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Want to learn about Mammoth Cave National Park hiking? You’re in the right place.

With over 400 miles of passages—and more being discovered all the time—Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest known cave system.

But while visitors are drawn to this Kentucky gem for its bats, stalagmites, and underground rivers, there’s plenty to explore aboveground too. Miles of hiking trails in Mammoth Cave National Park offer a much-needed retreat to nature for adventurers of all levels.

Here we’ll go over some of Mammoth Cave’s best hikes to get in touch with the quiet beauty of the park’s upper half.

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Before hiking, make sure you have these essentials:

🎒 Hiking backpack: Here’s the one we use & love!
💧 Water bladder: This is the water bladder we recommend!
💦 Water bottle: We love and use the Hydroflask 32 oz!
🥾 Hiking boots: These are the hiking boots we use!
🩹 First aid kit: This is a great first aid kit for your backpack!
🥨 Snacks: Clif Bars are our go-to on the trail!
🌲 Hiking poles: These hiking poles are a great option!
❄️ Microspikes: These are the ones we use when the trails are icy!
☀️ Sunscreen: This is a great hiking sunscreen!

Mammoth Cave National Park Hiking

Echo River Spring and Sinkhole Loop

🥾 2.8 miles, easy

This easy 2.8-mile loop connects the River Styx Trail to the Mammoth Dome Sink Trail. It leaves from the visitor center, leading hikers through majestic hardwood forests and past two springs to the banks of the Styx River.

And, like most hiking trails in Mammoth Cave National Park, it’s dog-friendly.

Stone and wood entrance sign to a National Park that says "Mammoth Cave National Park. A world heritage site and international biosphere reserve".

Green River Bluffs and Heritage Loop

🥾 2.8 miles, challenging

This 2.8-mile loop is a little more challenging, perfect for intermediate hikers or anyone hoping to get their heart rate up after a day of meandering through caves.

It starts at the picnic area near the visitor center and winds down to the bluffs over Green River—a gorgeous place to watch the sunset.

You’ll trek past many scenic viewpoints and interesting geologic features (i.e., big rocks) along the way, and you might even spot wildlife like deer or turkeys. You’ll also pass an old cemetery, an ideal stop for history buffs looking to learn more about the area.

The Green River Bluffs and Heritage Loop leaves from near the visitor center, behind the lodge. It’s wide boardwalk and concrete paths are easily accessible for wheelchairs, making it a great hike for the whole family.

For a longer Mammoth Cave hike, you can combine it with the Echo River Spring and Sinkhole trails.

View of a mountain range with fall colored trees covering the mountains.

Big Hollow North and South Loops

🥾 11 miles, moderate

This 11-mile moderate-difficulty trail is an ideal Mammoth Cave hike for immersing yourself in the park’s natural beauty. It doesn’t get much foot traffic—it’s mostly used by mountain bikers, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for bikes whizzing up from both directions.

Beyond the bikers, you’ll probably have the trail to yourself. The Big Hollow Loops are a great place to spend some quality time with the woods, spotting fungus, flowers, birds, and other wildlife.

Echo River and River Styx

🥾 3.4 miles, easy

This 3.4-mile out-and-back hike leaves from a small parking lot adjacent to the Green River Ferry, near the visitor center. It’s a beginner-friendly route consisting of a boardwalk and flat, smooth trails.

It’ll lead you past Mammoth Cave’s disused historic entrance to the River Styx, an underground spring that emerges into the forest here. Wildlife like turkeys, lizards, and snakes are often spotted on this trail.

As with most national parks, Mammoth Cave National Park hiking can get crowded. But the Echo River and River Styx trail is a little less crowded than others on our list and can be a good spot to get some quiet solitude in the woods, especially if you go on a weekday or in the off-or-shoulder seasons.

A small pool at the edge of a rocky embarkment.

Cedar Sink Trail

🥾 1.5 miles, easy

At under two miles, this out-and-back trail doesn’t take much time, but it’s easily one of the most scenic Mammoth Cave hikes. It leads to the Cedar Sink viewpoint, a sinkhole carved by centuries of water flowing through Cedar Creek.

The sinks are uniquely impressive—one minute, you’re strolling through the forest, and the next, you’re surrounded by deep holes. You’ll also get views of forest and cliffs and a glimpse of Mammoth Cave National Park’s underground river system.

Cedar Sink Trail is a crowd-pleaser. If your uncle wants to geek out over geology while your teenage sister is looking for spectacular photo ops, this checks all the boxes. This is one of the few hikes on our list that doesn’t start near the visitor center area. Instead, it’s a short drive from 70 on your way into or out of the park.

Sloan’s Crossing Pond Trail

🥾 0.4 miles, easy

Hiking trail through the woods that is covered in fall colored leaves.

This .4-mile loop consists of paved paths and wooden boardwalks, so it’s wheelchair-friendly. It also takes under 10 minutes to complete, so it’s a great Mammoth Cave hike for exploring the park’s aboveground side when you’re short on time.

Sloan’s Crossing Pond Trail takes walkers around a scenic pond created by a sinkhole above the cave system. There are plentiful opportunities for birding and spotting turtles in the water (turtling?), especially in the mornings and evenings.

There’s even a viewing deck with helpful info on the area’s wildlife. There are also benches and picnic tables in the parking area, making this mini Mammoth Cave hike a great place to stop for lunch during your visit to the park.

Sloan’s Crossing Pond Trail is accessed from 70 on your way into or out of the park. As a result, it’s blissfully uncrowded, and you probably won’t have to share the trail with many other walkers.

Organize your hiking with our

Notion Hiking Planner!

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Mammoth Cave Railroad Trail

🥾 16 miles, moderate

To see the same pond on a more challenging and (much) longer hike, try this 16-mile Mammoth Cave National Park hiking trail. It’s rated moderate, making it perfect for more experienced hikers or newbies looking to level up.

It stops at scenic viewpoints such as Valley Overlook and Sloan’s Crossing.

A staircase leading down into a cave in a wooded area.

Sand Cave Trail

🥾 0.3 miles, easy

This .3-mile trail through Mammoth Cave National Park is more an overlook than a hike, but it’s worth mentioning because it contains so much fascinating history.

Along the short boardwalk to Sand Cave, you’ll learn the story of Floyd Collins, whose death drew attention to the brutality of the Cave Wars and ultimately led to Mammoth Cave becoming a national park in 1941.

It’s fascinating to imagine this spot as it was a century ago, during Collins’s entrapment when the mouth of the cave was teeming with curious onlookers, vendors hawking snacks and souvenirs, journalists eager to interview Collins, and rescuers trying to save him.

Though he died of exposure during the three weeks it took to reach him, the tragedy drew attention to Kentucky’s cave country and helped the nation see it as a place worthy of protecting (rather than profiteering).

There’s also a Mammoth Cave National Park sign in the parking lot, a perfect place to snap a photo without fighting traffic into the park.


Where should you travel next?

Wet Prong Trail

🥾 8 miles, moderate

This 8-mile trail in the park’s northwest quadrant is another fun Mammoth Cave hike for a longer, more challenging exploration of the park’s forest. Because the trailhead is across from Mammoth Cave Horse Camp, it’s very popular with horseback riders.

This trail descends to Wet Prong, an offshoot of Buffalo Creek. Because few hikers use this trail, it’s a great place to find solitude in nature. But you’ll encounter plenty of horses, so it’s not the best option for dogs. Wear waterproof boots in preparation for a couple of shallow creek crossings—and, of course, the inevitable horse manure.

A small boat at the edge of a road that is sitting in a small river.

Final Thoughts: Mammoth Cave National Park Hiking Trails

Mammoth Cave may be known for its eerie caverns, oddly shaped stalactites, and adorable bats, but it’s also a wonderful place to explore Kentucky’s hardwood forest.

With such a variety of Mammoth Cave hiking trails, many of which connect to each other, you can find the perfect route for you and your group.

After touring the caves, be sure to stretch your legs on one (or more) of these hikes in Mammoth Cave National Park.

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