Exploring Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave

On our way home from our winter Texas adventure, my typically Type-A planner wife caught me off-guard when she suggested we change things up a bit and make one last stop on our way home to Pennsylvania. She had seen the signs for Mammoth Cave National Park on our way through Kentucky a few weeks earlier and she thought the kids would jump at the chance to visit one more national park before we headed home.

So we googled campgrounds near Mammoth Cave, and found Singing Hills RV Park in Cave City, Ky., which offered full hook-ups with close proximity to the national park. The benefit to traveling through certain parts of the country in the winter is that even on short notice, the campground owners were able to accommodate us! It seemed fitting that after pulling this Texas trip together on the fly, we would end it on the fly as well. 🙂

Campground: Singing Hills RV park is a fairly small campground. Like many other places we have stayed, it has features where it shines and a few areas to evaluate based on your camping preferences.

The positives are as follows:

  • Open year-round;
  • Close proximity to tourist attractions in Cave City;
  • Easy access to Mammoth Cave National Park;
  • Reasonably priced full hook-up sites and pull-through sites;
  • Strong and reliable wi-fi: There weren’t a lot of other people camping during our visit, so the speed may decline with a larger user volume, but the campground provided two networks to choose from–which was a really nice bonus!

Some things to note:

  • Entry and exit into the campground could be difficult for some rigs: There are two culvert ditches to the left and right of the entrance driveway. If you are arriving from I-65 you will most likely need to go left of center to swing into the drive so the camper does not drop into a ditch. Upon exit we found that traffic on this road can be busy, so making the left to go to the interstate might be tricky at certain peak times.
  • It is important to follow directional signs in the campground since some roads are one-way and are not really wide enough for two campers to pass. Additionally, there are some tighter turns including in the “turn-around” area that could be problematic for a large rig.
  • There is not a lot of green space between campsites.
  • The site next to us (31) was located beside a small ditch and making a wide enough turn to pull out of the site without dropping the camper into the ditch would have been tricky. (According to the campground map, the occupant of this site would have to exit the site by driving the opposite direction on the one-way campground road.)

Bathrooms: Thankfully the sites offered full hook-up since the bathrooms were not quite up to Kristin’s standards.

Amenities: The campground offers a catch-and-release fishing pond (no license needed), small play area, and volleyball court.

Touring: We visited in the off-season so most roadside attractions were still closed, but there would be a lot to see and do during the in-season. The main purpose for our stop was to visit Mammoth Cave National Park, which is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored and more caves discovered all the time. Did you know that Mammoth Cave is also one of the World Heritage Sites in the U.S.? Such sites are deemed to have “universal value” and have met certain criteria.

This NPS site offers numerous cave tours that vary in length and difficulty. It’s very important to understand the scope and extent of each tour before determining which one will be a good fit for your family. The park rangers are really good at describing what the tours will be like: Before we even boarded the bus, our tour ranger spent about 10 minutes explaining what the tour would involve and emphasizing who should probably not go on this tour (such as people who had recent knee replacements or heart attacks, or struggle with heights and claustrophobia.).

We went with the Domes and Dripstones tour, which included 280 steps and some tight spaces! At first Kristin was a bit concerned about whether the kids could handle it, but they did great. The tour included views of the Frozen Niagara formation, underground canyons, dripstones, and more. Since you are essentially walking single-file through the cave passages, it’s impossible to hear the park ranger through much of the cave. But at two different points the tour group stops to sit on benches while the ranger talks about the cave system. Toward the end of the tour, the kids were thrilled to spot the cave crickets.

In addition to the cave tour, we also spent time exploring the visitor center’s awesome exhibits. The renovated facility opened in 2012 and features lots of engaging and informative displays that will appeal to adults and children alike. While we were there the kids also had the opportunity to complete another Junior Ranger Badge.

So our last-minute plans to visit Mammoth were a win! Here’s to more spur-of-the-moment detours in the future. 🙂

Cost: $35 per night for 30-amp full hook-up with a Good Sam Discount. The campground also takes Passport America and Escapees RV Club.

Dates of stay: 1/12-14/2017

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