Climbing & Hiking Trails - 10 min read

10 Best Mammoth Cave Hiking Trails (Simple & Historic!)

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown, Updated September 26, 2022

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Home to one of the longest cave systems in the world, Mammoth Cave National Park is a remarkable place to explore. Mammoth Cave is such a rich and diverse area, filled with plants and animals that it is worth seeing everything they have! It is not just a spectacular cave, but it also has a beautiful history and life surrounding it.

Mammoth Cave is one of the oldest tourist attractions. If you’re looking for some new and unique places to discover, Mammoth Cave is sensational. Whether you are on the lookout for a quick hike or a day-long hike, there is something to suit you. This is a beautiful place for those planning on bringing their family. 

Mammoth Cave offers plenty of beauty for the whole family. It is a place that you will never forget. This list goes through the best hikes in Mammoth Cave to help you plan your trip and decide where to go and what to do.

1. Sand Cave Trail

The Sand Cave Trail is perfect for those that want a short and easy trail with exquisite views. This trail is excellent for bringing your family or younger kids. In addition, this trail is wheelchair accessible.

Most of the trail is in the gentle grade category at 5% or less. In addition, the surface is a four-foot-wide paved boardwalk.

This trail is popular as it has a fascinating history and the chance to see various birds. To increase your opportunities, you may want to go during a less crowded time.

You may bring your dog along on this trail. But, they need to be on a leash.

Pay attention to the signs as they tell you the history behind why the cave exists! Therefore, you should go when you have a little extra time on your hands.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.3 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 29 feet

2. River Styx Spring Trail

Credit: David Ellis / Flickr

The River Styx Spring Trail allows you to see a stunning spring where groundwater exits from the Mammoth Cave. It has a beautiful view of the Green River and gives you the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave.

The start of this trail will be at the Mammoth Cave Visitor’s Center. You will need to purchase a ticket, preferably in advance. You will begin at the sign that says Historic Entrance trail. 

Naturally, the trail splits into two. The path on the left is the start of the River Styx Spring Trail, where you can view the River Styx Spring. It is a short descent until you reach the Green River.

A gravel path on the right side leads to the welcome center and climbs past the cave entrance. Primarily, the trail becomes populated during its peak hours.

This trail is open year-round. So, no matter when you plan to visit the Mammoth Caves, you can enjoy this short but beautiful trail.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.4 miles
Total Elevation Gain:
426 feet

3. Sinkhole Trail

Credit: James St. John / Flickr

The Sinkhole Trail is easy and short. You may bring your dog with you but they must be on a leash. For those looking for a kid-friendly hike, this trail would be perfect.

It passes by the Mammoth Dome Sinkhole, so be sure to take a moment to look at that. Moreover, you can see the White Cave entrance. This trail has plenty to discover!

An important thing to note is that this trail has been reported not to be well marked. Therefore, it is best to download a map or follow an app. It is a popular trail for walking and hiking, so you may encounter people when you visit.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 357 feet

4. Heritage Trail Loop

Credit: Nate Sparks / AllTrails

The Heritage Trail Loop is a beautiful trail for those who want a quick afternoon stroll. There is the ability to see many different birds and wildlife. This trail is better than your everyday walk around town.

This trail is open year-round, so you can enjoy it no matter when you visit. It is charming to view in the spring and summer since many more trees and flowers are in bloom.

Looking at all the views you see on this trail is beneficial. You can see the Green River and Sunset lookout points during this course.

This trail follows a boardwalk and a four-foot-wide concrete path and most of the course is gentle grade at 5% or less. The steepest sections will be at 0.1 and 0.7 miles if traveling counter-clockwise.

Those using wheelchairs, mobility equipment, or strollers may need some assistance at the steeper sections.

You may also bring your furry friend along with you on this trail. Therefore, you and your dog can get much-needed sun and exercise on this trip.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 42 feet

5. Mammoth Cave Railroad Trail

Credit: John Manard / Flickr

The Mammoth Cave Railroad has plenty of history for you to discover. It first opened in 1886 to bring tourists to Mammoth Cave. The train line then continued for 45 years until it stopped. The last train ride to the Mammoth Caves was on August 1, 1931!

A portion of this path was converted from the train line into a hiking and bike trail. There are opportunities to stop at historic sites and see spectacular scenic views and waysides. This trail is fantastic to see up close.

This trail makes for an enjoyable sight any time of the year. So no matter when you are planning your visit to Mammoth Caves, it is best to make sure you stop here!

While some parts of this trail can be a bit challenging, most of it is easy. That said, it is perfect for beginner hikers looking for a bit of a challenge. You may bring your dog on this hike as well on the condition that they are on a leash.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 16.0 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 862 feet

6. Cedar Sink Trail

Credit: Don Sniegowski / Flickr

Cedar Sink Trail is a beautiful area to discover seasonal wildflowers amongst the forest habitat. As a result, you will want to explore this trail in the spring or summer months.

While this trail is not very long, it still gives you a good exercise. You will be climbing and descending 295 stairs during the entirety of this hike.

Additionally, this trail is excellent for those who enjoy a floral atmosphere. This hike also gives you plenty of opportunities to see birds and wildlife.

Furthermore, dogs are allowed on this trail but must be on a leash. The stairs are essential to consider before you bring your dog on this trail. Older dogs may be unable to go up and down the stairs.

There have also been some reviews warning about ticks. Be sure to check your dogs and yourself frequently!

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 232 feet

7. Big Hollow North and South Loops

Credit: Stephanie Hug / AllTrails

The Big Hollow North and South Loop Trail is a beautiful trail that takes you through the woods. While it is common for mountain bikers, there are still plenty of hikers on this trail.

You can start this trail from the Maple Springs Campground trailhead and work through the rocky outcroppings. Thankfully, this trail is well marked, so you may not need to download a map.

There are plenty of wildflowers and wildlife to discover while on this trail. So make sure to keep your eyes peeled! Though this trail is open year-round, Spring and summer will be the best time to explore. With this in mind, you will see all the flowers bloom.

You may also bring your dog with you on this hike. There is also the condition that your dog must be on a leash.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 11.1 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 587 feet

8. Sloan’s Crossing Pond Trail

Credit: Scott Densmore / AllTrails

Sloan’s Crossing Pond Trail is unique and picturesque. Make sure you bring your camera to capture this trail in all its beauty.

The pond was created from a sinkhole above Mammoth Cave, making it very unique and interesting to see. There are also many chances to see wildlife while on this trail! You can discover snapping turtles, fish, frogs, and herons. If visiting in the spring and summer months, you will also have a chance to see many butterflies.

This area is open if you visit during the winter or fall. During these seasons you will still have some spectacular views as well.

This trail is very accessible to everyone. Most of the surface of the course is a wooden boardwalk and at parts consist of gravel. Furthermore, it is at least four feet wide.

It is in the gentle grade category at 3% or less. Those visiting with a wheelchair or mobility equipment may want all-terrain tires during the unpaved areas.

This will also be a wonderful place to have a picnic. There are multiple benches and picnic tables along the route to sit and enjoy the scenery or take a rest.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 6 feet

9. Echo River Spring Trail

Credit: Mammoth Cave National Park / Facebook

The Echo River Spring Trail will give you stunning views of the forest. There are also plenty of chances to discover wildlife nearby.

The trail begins just before the Green River Ferry and follows along the boardwalk and a flat forest trail. Soon the flat forest trail leads you to a split. At the fork, the bottom of the main path will pass the Mammoth Cave entrance.

After passing the Mammoth Cave entrance, you take the right trail and go uphill to Echo River Springs. This is where you wll  pass by the Welcome Center.

This trail is also wheelchair friendly. Most of the trail’s surface is paved concrete, wooden boardwalk, gravel, or a natural surface. Furthermore, because of some sections, those with wheelchairs or mobility equipment may need all-terrain tires.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 154 feet

10. Turnhole Bend Nature Trail

Credit: Kyla Martineau / AllTrails

The Turnhole Bend Nature Trail is spectacular for those who want a short trail with beautiful scenery. There is also the ability to see some cave views and the forestry nearby.

This trail is incredibly ideal for bird watchers as this trail is full of birds. Therefore, you will want to bring your binoculars!

It is essential to download the map as the trail has very few signs. Another important caution is to bring bug spray, as this trail has bugs.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 98 feet

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