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Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is home to one of the great wonders of the natural world. The Mammoth Cave system is the longest known cave system on earth at 350 miles and counting (explorations continue). Subterranean geological titans in the form of massive multi-colored stalagmites stand pillar-like in vast, crystal-laced caverns. Blind beetles and albino spiders scuttle over rippling mineral sheets resembling frozen cascades and eyeless fish cruise the cool, quiet waters of underground rivers bearing names like Echo and Styx. The Mammoth Dome looms 192 feet high, the antithesis of a mountain, while the so-called Bottomless Pit bottoms out at 105 feet.

Ranger-led cave tours are the best way to experience the grandeur of Mammoth Cave National Park, though the self-guided Discovery Tour is a good introduction (but is only available in the warmer months). All tours require tickets, and they do sell out. To call and buy tour tickets in advance call (800) 967-2283.

Above the caves lays nearly 53,000 acres of beautiful blue-grass parkland, with 300 acres of old growth forest, modest wetlands and rivers. Wildlife viewing is excellent, and the park is home to a heartbreaking number of endangered species, including 6 species of bats. Over 200 species of birds frequent the park, like the Barred Owl, the Pileated Woodpecker, the Red-tailed Hawk and 37 species of waterfowl. There are 70 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, and more than 30 miles of river to boat upon and fish for Bluegill, Crappie and Black Bass.

Mammoth National Park in Kentucky has 3 developed campgrounds with water and toilets, but no electrical hook-ups. To stay in the Mammoth Cave Hotel call (270) 758-2225 and make reservations.