What is the Best Hiking Trail in Mammoth Cave National Park?

Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park is most well known for its astonishing collection of caves and cave tours. However, hiking at Mammoth Cave National Park often gets overlooked by visitors. 

There are a large variety of impressive hiking trails at Mammoth Cave. Many of these hikes get you up close and personal with outstanding natural, cultural, historical, and geological sights. These include river views, cave-fed springs, ridgetops, sinkholes, cemeteries, a historic locomotive train, and views of the historic entrances to Mammoth Cave and Dixon Cave.

The best hike in the park is the Green River Bluffs Trail Route. This trail contains several spectacular vistas that overlook the scenic Green River. 

In addition to discussing details about the Green River Bluffs Trail, we will answer some other common questions about this fascinating park, including:

  • How many hiking trails are in Mammoth Cave National Park?
  • How cold is it inside Mammoth Cave?
  • How many days do you need at Mammoth Cave?

So let’s dive right in, then! Here is a quick summary of Mammoth Cave’s best hiking trail!

A river flows into one of the numerous cave systems along the trails at Mammoth Cave National Park
A river flows into one of the numerous cave systems along the trails at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Green River Bluffs Trail

The Green River Bluffs Trail is a scenic, 4.3-mile loop trail. The route is generally classified as moderately challenging. On average, this trail takes visitors about 1 hr 50 min to finish. This trail is conveniently located right next to the park’s visitor center. This makes it the perfect activity for before or after your cave tour below. 

The trail stretches across a bluff area set along the Green River. Multiple spots allow access to some spectacular overlooks of the Green River. The trail is made up of a wide path with mixed terrain. Throughout the trail, the path changes from gravel to dirt to paved multiple times. Multiple benches are spread along the trail, allowing you to rest and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. 

Speaking of which, the scenery along this trail is extraordinary. Some sights along the way you’ll view include cave entrances, rock formations, sinkholes, natural springs, river views, and much more. Many side trails lead back to the visitor center if you need to shorten the length of your hike. Another bonus of this trail is that it is very well marked, with tons of signs throughout and at the trail intersections. 

Overlook of the scenic Green River as it winds westward through the park
Overlook of the scenic Green River as it winds westward through the park. NPS Photo

How many hiking trails are in Mammoth Cave National Park?

There is an extensive number of hiking trails inside Mammoth Cave National Park. There are 18 hiking trails near the visitor center, 9 trails near the park’s South Side, and 30 backcountry trails. Here are the top 10 hiking trails in Mammoth Cave I recommend:

1. Green River Bluffs Trail

Length: 4.3 Mi.

Trail Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 564 feet

Difficulty: Moderately challenging

Time: 1 h 50 min.

2. Green River Bluffs and Heritage Route

Length: 2.4 Mi.

Trail Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 374 feet

Difficulty: Moderately challenging 

Time: 1 h 5 min.

3. Echo River Spring and Sinkhole Loop

Length: 2.8 Mi.

Trail Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 364 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 1 h 10 min.

4. Heritage Trail Loop

Length: 0.6 Mi.

Trail Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 42 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 15 min.

5. Sinkhole Trail

Length: 2.4 Mi.

Trail Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 357 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 1 h 5 min. 

6. Dixon Cave, Green River Bluffs, and River Styx Spring Loop

Length: 1.6 Mi. 

Trail Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 311 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 50 min.

7. Cedar Sink Trail

Length: 1.5 Mi. 

Trail Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 206 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 40 min.

8. Echo River Spring Trail

Length: 2.2 Mi. 

Trail Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 154 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 50 Min.

9. Echo River and River Styx Spring Trail

Length: 3.4 Mi.

Trail Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 426 feet

Difficulty: Easy 

Time: 1 h 25 min.

10. Echo River Springs Trail

Length: 0.6 Mi.

Trail Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 22 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 10 min.

A hiker walks along the River Styx Spring Trail boardwalk in Mammoth Cave National Park
A hiker walks along the River Styx Spring Trail boardwalk in Mammoth Cave National Park.

How cold is it inside Mammoth Cave?

Temperatures near the cave entrance vary somewhat, but it remains a consistent 54°F (12°C) deep inside. The chilly weather inside the cave is a welcomed escape from southern Kentucky’s hot and humid summers. Therefore, you should bring a sweater or a light jacket into the cave and good walking shoes.

How many days do you need at Mammoth Cave?

One or two days inside Mammoth Cave National Park is a good amount of time to spend here. This would give you time to take one or two cave tours. It also gives you time to check out a few of the park’s best hiking trails. 

Final Thoughts 

In short, the hiking trails at Mammoth Cave National Park are abundant and breathtaking. With over 50 hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties, there is no shortage of treks to choose from. 

The most impressive hike in the park is the Green River Bluffs Trail. This spectacular route has multiple scenic overlooks, river views, breathtaking rock formations, thick forests, and cave entrances. Even better, this trail is well-marked and has shortcuts back to the start of the trail for shorter trips if desired. 

The park’s cave tours are impressive, but the hikes above ground here shouldn’t be brushed aside. These hikes provide access to some of southern Kentucky’s most beautiful countryside. 

The rugged landscape of forest ridges and valleys is a close contender behind the impressiveness of the iconic Mammoth Cave. 

When you visit Mammoth Cave, try to incorporate some of the park’s top-tier hiking trails into your itinerary. These hikes would be an excellent addition to your trip!

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About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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