Friday, October 16, 2015

Best trails to see Mammoth Cave NP's sites

Cedar Sinkhole on Cedar Sink Trail in winter.
Photo courtesy of  Mammoth Springs NPS.
Among the best ways to see Mammoth Cave National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just four short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – the world’s longest cave system, a disappearing river, the lush Green River Valley, and sandstone outcrops.

World’s longest cave system
More than 400 miles of explored caves sit beneath the surface of southcentral Kentucky. The National Park Service offers a variety of tours of the caves, but perhaps the best – and certainly the most physically demanding – is the 4-mile Grand Avenue Tour, which includes massive flowstone, flower-like formations formed from gypsum, and passageways carved by water that once rushed underground.

Disappearing river
Sections of a cave-forming river pops above ground at the end of the Cedar Sink Trail then disappears underground again at the foot of a bluff. The 2-mile round trip trail heads through a lush woods on its way to the sinkhole.

Green River Valley
Green River flows for 26 miles through the national park. The 1.3-miles Green River Bluffs Trail offers great views of the waterway and its lush surroundings.

Sandstone outcrops
Sandstone formed as sediment piled up here around 300 millions of years ago when this section of Kentucky was the mouth of a great river flowing into a sea; this sandstone appears throughout the park. Hike the first four miles (8-miles round trip) of the First Creek Trail for a great view of a sandstone rock shelter.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.