Mammoth Cave National Park protects over 360 miles of cave passages; only about 10 miles of the cave are shown to the public in 11 separate tours. Which tour is right for you depends on the size and age of your class and the topics you are studying. Not all tours are ideal for school field trips. Take a look at our tour descriptions, costs, times, and information on reservations. Keep in mind that many tours will fill up and make your reservations well in advance.
The park's Environmental Education Program operates independently of the regular tours so do not purchase tickets for a regular tour if you are working through the Environmental Education Program. Only purchase tickets if you are planning an independent field trip.
Tour costs per person vary, and some tours are not ideal for school field trips. Educational prices apply to Kindergarten-College groups, including home schools, for select tours. Please call the park at 270.758.2180 to schedule your educational group.
- When you make your reservation, make sure you get a reservation number and bring this number with you on your field trip.
- For younger children (K-3), the Frozen Niagara tour (formally called the Travertine tour) is probably your best choice. It is a shorter tour with many opportunities for students to see cave formations and cave life up close.
- Please bring one chaperone for every ten students. We recommend that chaperones not bring students' younger siblings along on the trip. Choose your chaperones carefully; many of the tours are moderately to very strenuous.
- Encourage children to dress warmly; the cave is about 54°F year-round. Before leaving the park, be sure to check if students still have their jackets.
- When choosing a tour time, be sure to plan on being at the park at least half an hour before the tours begin. These tours are scheduled and you will be sharing the tour with others. It will begin on time and cannot be changed to accommodate your needs.
It depends upon the tour you are taking. The Historic Tour currently limits groups to 120 (students AND adults), while the Wild Cave Tour limits groups to 14. Tour limits for the Historic and Domes and Dripstones cave tours are reduced during our winter season. Please check the tour specifics to view the tour limits if you are planning a trip during the months of December - February. Remember, your students may be sharing a tour with other visitors. A much better question may be how big SHOULD your group be. Smaller groups will have a more educational experience and be less stressful for the teacher. Please plan on having one chaperone for every ten students. Chaperones are responsible for all discipline and should be readily available to comfort students in case of fears of the unknown.
Students should dress comfortably for hiking, wearing closed-toe shoes with good traction (such as boots or sneakers). Remind students that their clothes and shoes may get dirty and wet in the cave. Students should also be prepared for the cave's temperature: it stays about 54°F throughout the year;
however, temperatures above ground vary greatly, from below freezing in winter to above 90 in the summer. Check the weather and help your students dress appropriately.
Students who have studied the park's natural and cultural history before their trip will have a much more meaningful educational experience. Consider using the park's resources to augment your classroom curricula. A few ideas are:
- Geology: Have students research caves and karst in the library or on the internet. Check out our fact sheets and our links to partners in cave education.
- History: Study slavery, the War of 1812, Kentucky's early years, tourism in the United States, or the National Park System.
- Use our extensive lessons and curricula to teach students about Mammoth Cave in your classroom.
Restrooms are available in the visitor center and picnic area. Most tours do not have rest room facilities. Please see tour descriptions for details.
Across the parking area from the visitor center (where tours begin and end), is a large picnic area. There is parking for many buses, and two covered picnic shelters, each of which can accommodate about 60 to 80 students. Keep in mind that other groups may also be planning on using these shelters. One of these shelters may be reserved for $50 per day by calling 877-444-6777 or online. Please encourage kids to put all their trash in the dumpsters. While there are no recycling bins in the picnic area we encourage you to bring your own trash bags and recycle back at school or home. There are also a few picnic tables at Sloan's Crossing Pond, but no rest rooms at this time.
The Mammoth Cave Hotel offers both restaurant and cafe service. Contact the hotel to find out if a buffet will be offered on the day of your trip: (270)758-2225. In Cave City there are many fast food restaurants and a few sit-down restaurants. Check out our where to eat
page for suggestions.
There are drinking fountains inside the visitor center next to each bathroom entrance. There are also water spigots in the picnic area, but they are difficult to drink from directly; bring a cup.
It's not an educational part of a field trip, but many students want to spend time in the gift shop. Please make sure your students are chaperoned while shopping. The park has a four places where gifts can be bought:
- Eastern National Bookstore: This bookstore is located in the visitor center lobby and features books, posters, and educational items. A portion of the proceeds from sales here goes to the park. Open the same hours as the visitor center.
- The Cave Company: Located in the hotel across the bridge from the visitor centers, the shop features park and Kentucky memorabilia, candy, film, books, etc. Open year-round; hours change seasonally.
- Kentucky Home Gift Shop: Located in the hotel across the bridge from the visitor center, the shop features Kentucky handcrafts.
- Caver's Camp Store: The service station consists of a gas station, showers, post office, and convenience store. The store sells food, camping gear, and some souvenirs.
For those who are traveling great distances, there are many lodging options
and services in the local area, including public and private campgrounds and hotels.
The best way to make sure you can be contacted and can reach your school while traveling is to have a mobile phone with you. However, cellular service in the park is limited. In case of emergency while in the park, contact a ranger or dial 911.
To be contacted at the park (for messages to be delivered to you in case of emergency), call the administration line at 270-758-2417
. Be sure to leave a detailed itinerary with your school so the park employees will know where to find you. Public phones are available outside the visitor center and Caver's Camp Store.
The park offers ranger-led walks and campfire programs free of charge on a seasonal basis. Check the tour schedule
for availability during the time you will be visiting the park.
Mammoth Cave has an exhibit area in the Visitor Center featuring displays on topics from the prehistoric origins of the cave and early human uses to modern exploration and cave science. A visit to the exhibit area is highly recommended prior to your journey into Mammoth Cave to broaden your students' understanding of the things they will see underground. There is no charge to visit the exhibit area. The exhibits are open during regular Visitor Center hours.
In the central room of the Visitor Center exhibit area, you can watch a short film about Mammoth Cave. Seating is limited, however, and it would be difficult to stop a large group of students there at once.
Mammoth Cave National Park has nearly 80 miles of trails which wander through forests, along rivers, past sinkholes, and through historic areas. Pick the one that best fits your needs. Please note that all plants, animals, artifacts, and geologic features in a national park are protected. Take nothing but memories and notes, leave nothing behind, and leave things as you find them. Sloan's Crossing Pond Trail, Sand Cave Trail, and the Heritage Trail are accessible
to those with mobility impairments.
- Water Studies: Sloan's Crossing Pond, Echo River Spring
- Cave and Karst Studies: Echo River Spring, Cedar Sink, Mammoth Dome Sink, Dixon Cave, River Styx Spring, Turnhole Bend
- Forest Studies: Turnhole Bend, Green River Bluffs, North Side Trails
- Historic Studies: Sand Cave, Heritage Trail and Guide Cemetery, Churches and Cemeteries
- Maps: Mammoth Cave National Park Map (PDF 276k), Visitor Center Area (PDF 72k)
Before Mammoth Cave became a National Park in 1941, the 52,000 acres that now comprise the park was the home to numerous farm families and small villages. Three churches and over 90 cemeteries remain in the park. The churches are not open to the public, but the cemeteries provide an interesting glimpse into the past. Ask your students to find the graves of young children, or multiple generations; have them observe the symbols carved onto gravestones. Ask them to sketch what they see (do not do rubbings of the headstones as this can damage them). Please be aware that the churches and cemeteries are still in use by some. They are sacred places; be respectful.
Visiting Mammoth Cave can be a safe and enjoyable experience when visitors take some basic precautions and are aware of the dangers inherent to caves. Please read the precautions below and share them with your students and chaperones.
- Watch your footing while touring the cave.
- Lighting of trail surfaces will vary, so use extra caution when walking in areas with low light.
- Cave trails are marked, but can be uneven and in some places wet.
- Use handrails and be careful of low hanging rocks.
- Stay on the trails at all times.
- Do not sit, climb, or step on rocks marking trail edges.
- Walk together as a group.
- All children under 16 must be accompanied and in the presence of an adult chaperone throughout the tour.
- Stop walking when using still or video cameras. Walking and photographing at the same time is hazardous and can lead to serious personal injury, injury to others, and resource damage. We suggest that a class designate one or two photographers rather than permitting all students to carry cameras.
- Visitors who want to travel at a slower pace should move to the front of the group. Due to "bottlenecks," the pace is faster at the back of the tour group.
- Visitors with known heart or respiratory problems, poor circulation, or difficulty walking long distances and negotiating stairs, should carefully consider their limitations. Choose your chaperones carefully.
- Evacuation from the cave to a hospital for medical attention could take several hours.
- Please be aware of any medical conditions that your students might have; students who have severe allergies to bees or other allergens or have asthma should have appropriate medication with them.
- Mammoth Cave National Park is home to copperheads, rattlesnakes, brown recluse and black widow spiders, ticks, bees, and wasps. Each of these have stings or bites that can range from painful to deadly. Never place a hand or foot in a place you can't see; if you are bitten or stung, contact a ranger immediately.
Common sense and the rules from your classroom will suffice for most situations; however, because Mammoth Cave is a National Park, we do have a few special rules and requests for school groups:
- Take only memories, leave only footprints: all rocks, plants, animals, and historic artifacts in the park are protected; plants and flowers may not be picked, and animals may not be injured, killed, fed, or harassed. Please leave them here, as you found them, for others to enjoy.
- Stay with your group; students must be with a chaperone at all times.
- Do not bring food, drinks, gum, or any tobacco products into the cave.
- Please do not touch cave formations; the oil from your hands can damage them permanently.
- Be safe: please see the safety suggestions above.
While the Cave itself is not currently accessible, most features of Mammoth Cave National Park are accessible
in some way.