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Trip 9: Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is most well known for containing the world's longest cave system, with more than 400 miles of interconnected passageways mapped so far, with more still under exploration. Mammoth Cave also has the advantage of being close to Louisville, Lexington, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so we took advantage of our time there to explore these as well!

The highlight of our visit to Mammoth Cave was, not surprisingly, doing a cave tour. We opted to do the historic cave tour, which was about two miles long, included 540 stairs, and had several fun areas where we had to duck down or squeeze through. Having reservations in advance is key, as the tours sell out. We were there on a Monday in October (not peak season) and the park was fairly crowded and all tours were sold out for the day. We would also recommend trying to book several different tours to see more of the features of the caves, such as the Frozen Niagara or the Domes and Dripstones. In many areas, the underground spaces were massive, although in a few areas, we had to squeeze through the passages or stay hunched over to avoid hitting the ceiling.

Beyond the underground area, the park has plenty of hiking trails and summer months also offer canoeing, kayaking and boating along the Green River. We hiked the Green River Bluffs Overlook, Sunset Point Overlook, Dixon Cave Overlook Trail and Sand Cave Trail, all easy hikes. We also followed part of the Beneath Your Feet trail, which includes numbered markers that explain what part of Mammoth Cave lies directly below that point. Many of these cave features were ones we had just seen on our tour, so this gave us a good perspective of where we had walked underground from an above ground perspective. The lodge is closed for renovation, but Sunset Terrace rooms and cabins are available for those wanting to stay in the park and are reasonably priced; we recommend making reservations as far in advance as possible.

While we enjoyed Mammoth Cave, we had a blast going to the Louisville Slugger factory and Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville and visiting, touring, and doing tastings at nine distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail over the course of the week. We went to Angel's Envy and Evan Williams in Louisville, then Heaven Hill, Lux Row, Maker's Mark, Bulleit, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace. We learned something new or saw or tasted something different at every distillery and came away with a whole new appreciation of bourbon. All the tours were great, but our favorites had to be Angel's Envy, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, and Maker's Mark. The tours and tastings are very popular, so advance reservations are a must. Of the distilleries we visited, only Buffalo Trace offered a complimentary tour/tasting; all others had a fee typically between $15 and $25 per person.

Of course, this wouldn't be Parks and Pubs without us also enjoying some local brew pubs. At Louisville's Against the Grain Brewery, we enjoyed lunch along with a 35K milk stout and It's Hoppy In Here IPA. In the evening, we stopped at the Shippingport Brewing Company in the Portland neighborhood for some brews. I'm a huge kombucha fan and was please to find an excellent draft hard kombucha (Sally's Kombucha) on the drink was refreshing and delicious! The Shippingport Marge was also an excellent IPA, according to Mike. In Lexington, we went to West Sixth Brewing Company, Pivot Brewing Company, Mirror Twin Brewing, and Rock House Brewing. Pivot Brewing's menu is half beers and half hard ciders; Mike enjoyed the Bad Penny IPA, but with so much choice, I just had to do a flight with both beers and ciders. Their Pecan Porter was really outstanding as was the Barrel-Aged Fincastle (caramel apple cider aged in bourbon barrels).

Our next trip will be in December to Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands national parks!


Apr 18, 2023

Love to see it, you have triggered my desire for the outdoors


Nov 01, 2022

Love the write-up. What great adventures you are on. We do the Horsey Hundred Bike ride every year and a distillery visit is always on the plans for us. Buffalo Trace is my favorite and my bourbon of choice is their Eagle Rare.


Tim Hall
Tim Hall
Nov 01, 2022

Look's like you are having fun.

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