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10 Best Caves to Explore in Kentucky

By | Last Updated : 25th December 2019

Enigmatic and spine-chilling caves always stimulate the passion among dauntless venturers around the world to unleash their enthusiasm to encounter uncharted territories.  With a vast topography of limestone formations and a congregation of over 130 caves and caverns, explorers always flock  to visit Kentucky.

Caves in Kentucky

1. Mammoth Cave National Park, Edmonson County

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Best Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky Mammoth Caves National Park to Visit in Kentucky

The UNESCO World Heritage site and ecosphere reserve in south-central Kentucky boast of the Mammoth Cave, an enormous 5-level network system of charted underground terrains over 400 miles. It lies approximately 14 km northwest of the Highway I-65. The 12,000-year-old largest and the longest network of the cave system has average weather around 54 degrees Fahrenheit. It also consists of a labyrinth of about 412 passageways and often regarded by many as a haunting zone. Spelunking and zip lining in mammoth caves are always unique, as this massive cave system has numerous attractions to lure the explorers. Among vulnerable faunas to watch, are the bats and sightless Kentucky cave shrimp.

Attractions:

  • Among the admission-free tours are the Historic Tour, the Grand Avenue Tour, the Wild Cave Tour, and the underground River Styx Spring trek filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and ice-columns.
  • Explorers can take the lighted staircase, extended passages, and an elevator to go inside the cave. During peak season, around 4,000 tourists explore the cave every day.
  • With a waterfall, the entrance boasts of the Mammoth Dome; a spectacular ceiling is around 192 feet height. Other calcite formations like the Fat Man’s Misery, Tall Man’s Agony, Giant’s Coffin, and 105-feet Bottomless Pit.
  • Trekkers can also go to the River Hall, near the subterranean River Styx at around 300 feet down.
  • The visitors can visit the Jellystone park, close to the Mammoth Cave known for spectacular campgrounds, apart from kayaking opportunities on the serene Green River.

Hours of Operation:

  • Summer Months (8 am – 7 pm)
  • September – May (8 am – 4:30 pm)

2. Lost River Cave, Warren County

Lost River Cave in Kentucky

Lost River Caves to Visit in Kentucky Best Lost River Cave in Kentucky

This magnificent 7-mile long cavern is situated at the city of Bowling Green in western Kentucky. It is the only place in the entire state to boast of an underground boat tour. Trippers usually slide through the rocky entrance to get into the underground water. Then, they enter into a vast space having church-like appearance formed out of limestone and calcites. The thrilling subterrane cavern boat tour is the deepest in the world as per Ripley’s Believe or Not followers and remains constant at 57 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.  The guided trekking beside the river will highlight old folklores about European colonizers, Civil War soldiers, and the unlawful Jesse James.

Attractions:

  • The explorers can enjoy some special cave tours like the Discovery Cave Crawl, but in limited numbers, mainly when the lost river is safe at autumn, winter, and early spring season.
  • Again, Historic Valley Walking Tour takes about 35 minutes, ferrying the travelers down to a concrete walkway to the historic Blue Hole No. 4.
  • Besides, there is Flying Squirrel Zipline for the intrepid trippers to get themselves thrilled and zipped across the valley and over the blue holes, providing breathtaking views.
  • Moreover, there is Lightning Bug Zipline for the youngsters to enjoy zipping.

Hours of Operation:

  • Daily (8:30 am – 6:30 pm), except from March to November

3. Crystal Onyx Cave, Barren County

Crystal Onyx Cave in Kentucky

Crystal Onyx Caves to Visit in Kentucky Best Crystal Onyx Cave in Kentucky

Located 2 miles east of Highway I-65, and re-discovered in 1960, this privately-maintained cave is one of the most important paleontological sites. It is due to 3000-year old human bone remains of Native Americans that can be found inside the cavern. The half-a-mile tour taking an hour is separated into the Upper Lake and the Scenic trails, while the other goes down to the Lower Entrance.

Attractions:

  • In the Upper tour, the Scenic Lake Trail can be reached by the Lake Bridge over the Crystal Lake to witness the Great Pumpkin and to the large Crystal Falls room.
  • The Lower tour goes through a tunnel about 150 feet falling into a Big room, with an impressive 75-feet dome.
  • Moreover, 40 steps down are the giant cave popcorn formation, with translucent crystals. Finally, a mystery tunnel takes to the base of Goliath, with towering domes, and a 45 feet tall soggy stalactite. Still below, there are the Great room, Alien room, and the awe-inspiring Palace room.
  • Other well-known formations include the Mystery Spot famous for a giant ice-cream cone-shaped and spine-chilling half-mile crawl, apart from alligator’s mouth, and guardian angel. Besides, a 50-year old Wedding Cake and the Great Wall also lure the trekkers.

Hours of Operation:

  • Daily (10:00 am – 7:00 pm)

4. Diamond Caverns, Barren County

Diamond Caverns in Kentucky

Best Diamond Caverns in Kentucky Diamond Caverns to Visit in Kentucky

It was discovered in 1859; the Diamond cave got its name from the glittering calcite formations looking like diamonds. It is situated in the adjacent area of Mammoth Cave National Park, offering a mesmerizing half a mile lighted and hand-railed cave tour, taking place for close to 160 years. The temperature inside the cavern is very cozy at around 58 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. It is the second-oldest show cave in the state, and also the fourth-oldest cave opened for the public in the entire States, well known for its cool summer and warm winter. There are around 350 steps in the entire two-level tour, making it one of the most tedious cave tours amongst all.

Attractions:

  • Guided one-hour tours are available to witness the entangled limestone and calcite formations carved out in the shape of church-rooms, apart from abundant stalactites, delicate soda straws, flowstones, and cave pearl structures.

Hours of Operation:

  • Daily (10 am – 4 pm) except on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and the Christmas Day

5. Louisville Mega-Cavern, Jefferson County.

Louisville Mega-Cavern in Kentucky

Best Louisville Mega-Cavern in Kentucky Louisville Mega-Cavern to Visit in Kentucky

It is one of the most extensive cave systems in the States, measuring around 100 acres  in length. The Mega-Cavern boasts about 320,000 square-foot of the underground bike park, including nearly 45 single and double-trail courses. The  biggest attraction is the Lights under Louisville, which offers trippers to drive their bikes and cars through the lighted Christmas cave. The temperature inside the cave system is very cozy at around 58 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.

Attractions:

  • Mega Zips offers the explorers with adrenaline-charged guided ziplining tours of around two and a half hours consisting of sportive dual racing zips and two challenging bridges.
  • Another excitement is the Historic Tram Tour inside the cavern along the entire 17 miles of subterranean area. The whole tour is about 60 to 70 minutes by a tram pulled by an SUV.
  • Among other exciting activities are the Mega Quest, an elevated rope challenge, and the Mega Walking Tour, a 90 minutes exploration along the 1.8-mile cavern. Besides, there are the one and a half hours Electric Bus Tour.
  • Eventually, the most important is the half an hour Lights under Louisville festival, an underground 17-mile drive-in Christmas light extravaganza displaying nearly 30 lakhs dazzling lights.

Hours of Operation:

  • General Timings: Daily (8 am – 4 pm & 6– 10 pm), except Friday (8 am – 12 am)
  • Lights under Louisville: Monday – Friday (6-10 pm); Saturday-Sunday (5-10 pm)

6. Carter Caves State Park, Carter County

Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky

Best Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky Carter Caves State Park to Visit in Kentucky

This state park consists of more than 20 meandering caverns tucked along the hilly afforested zones of eastern Kentucky. Apart from the thrilling cave attraction, the vacationers may be interested in relaxing, while golfing on a 9-hole golf course. Besides other activities, the tripper can indulge in hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, and high-altitude biking for some more excitement.

Attractions:

  • The visitor can take up the 75 minutes tour of the Cascade Caves consisting of three separate caverns and a subterranean lake room. It is also famous for a 30-foot high underground waterfall.
  • Again, there is the million-year-old X Cave, named for its crisscrossed pathways, boasting of a few large rock formations. The tour time is around 45 minutes.
  • The Saltpetre Cave is better known for its historical nostalgia, a stockpile of gunpowder mined from 1812 war can be traced in the cavern. The tour takes around an hour.
  • Besides, there is the 2.5 hours Bat Cave tour, a protected zone of vulnerable bats only visited during the summer months. Moreover, the Bat Cave Crawling Tour lasts for 3 hours.

Hours of Operation: Throughout the year

7. Outlaw Cave, Barren County

Outlaw Caves in Kentucky

Best Outlaw Caves in Kentucky Outlaw Caves to Visit in Kentucky

It is a cave that used to serve as a hideout location for infamous criminals like Jesse James. Besides, it was also used as a refuge and depository by the Native Americans. This is the only cavern for disabled persons coming under the Kentucky Action Park. The approximate time for the guided tour is around half an hour. The cave has no concrete pathways and stairs. Moreover, natural formations are fashioned in such a way so that anyone could move freely, even riding a horse.

Attractions:

  • Spectacular calcite and limestone formations can be found inside the caverns known for their different colors. Moreover, there are massive rock formations right from the ceiling to the floor. This cave is very marshy, as water seeps on a continuous process.

Hours of Operation: 10:00 am- 6:00 pm

8. Mammoth Onyx Cave, Hart County

Mammoth Onyx Caves in Kentucky

Mammoth Onyx Caves to Visit in Kentucky Best Mammoth Onyx Caves in Kentucky

This cave is discovered in 1799 and opened for the public in 1922. The guided tour of the cavern takes about 45 minutes. The subterranean area tour is included in the admission to the Kentucky Down Under zoo.

Attractions:

  • Explorers reach a depth of 137-feet under the ground to see the stalactites, stalagmites, and attractive cave popcorn and cauliflower.
  • Besides, significant Onyx formations can be observed by the trekkers in a pleasant cave temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Vacationers can even pay a visit to witness the amazing wildlife like the kangaroos and kookaburras.

Hours of Operation:

  • Daily (9 am – 5 pm); It can vary by one hour before or after 5 pm.

9. Cub Run Cave, Hart County

Cub Run Caves in Kentucky

Best Cub Run Caves in Kentucky Cub Run Caves to Visit in Kentucky

It is one of the most famous caves in the States. The subterrane was eventually re-opened after a gap of almost 50 years in 2006 for the general public. The distinguishing feature about this cavern is that its pathways are significantly broad, and one has to go up or down through a high passage, only 14 steps at an essential point of the tour. The deepest  point of the cave is around 150 feet below the ground level. Guided tours are available for enthusiasts lasting around one and a half hours.

Attractions:

  • It is one of the four fantastic caverns in the States to have a very unusual rock formation known as boxwork, formed by calcite in the cave wall and ceilings showcasing a box-like attractive honeycomb design.
  • Besides, the visitors can see a natural pool formed by dripping water from a hole in the cave’s ceiling.
  • Moreover, colorful flowstones, along with stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacons, cave popcorns, and corals, can be found by the tourists.
  • Tourers can walk along observing sparling clear pools with species of blind crayfish, salamanders, and three kinds of bats hanging from the roof of the cavern.

Hours of Operation:

  • Wednesday to Sunday

10. Hidden River Cave and American Cave Museum, Hart County

Hidden River Cave to Visit in Kentucky

Best Hidden River Cave in Kentucky Hidden River Cave in Kentucky

The Hidden River Cave is situated just below the city of Horse Cave, only 5 minutes from the I-65. This cavern is a part of an extensive karst system formed by soluble rocks like limestone, dolomite, and gypsum, that connects with the Mammoth Cave while stretching 100 square miles to the West-Central Kentucky region.  The entrance to the Bluegrass region cave is through a big sinkhole. As the Green River resurfaces as a spring, before flowing actively under the cavern, so no stalactites or stalagmites form here. The guided tour takes about an hour, where the trekkers witness endangered fauna such as Kentucky cave shrimp, blind crayfish, and the southern cavefish.

Attractions:

  • Trekkers can take around 230 stairs to go down into the subterrane, beside a hidden underground hidden river, over the world’s longest subterranean swinging bridge.
  • Visitors can also enjoy zipping, and roping down in the cave arena. The zip line is the highest in the entire zone and zips down tourists nearly 75 feet at around 30 miles per hour.
  • They can also witness a slimy mountain along with the second dome into the enormous and spectacular Sunset Dome
  • Moreover, anyone can visit the educational American Cave Museum.

Hours of Operation:

  • Daily (8 am – 5 pm)

Among other popular cave spots that tourists can visit is the incredible Sand Cave in the state. Thus, these awe-inspiring plethora of charted and uncharted caves and caverns entices the passionate and motivated cave enthusiasts throughout the year from around the world. Spelunking or cave exploration is thus gaining popularity among all fanatics, who are willing to break free from their monotonous lives and explore the unknown.

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