Backcountry and Riverside Camping

A backpacker sits near a scenic overlook while visiting the White Oak Campsite.
A spring camping trip through the backcountry at Mammoth Cave National Park may reward backpackers with ridge-top views of the Green River Valley.

NPS Photo / Mary Schubert

The Rugged Camping Experience

Mammoth Cave National Park’s backcountry boasts 37 square miles of forest and more than 60 miles of trails.

Sure, some campers may enjoy a developed campground, but for those looking for a “rugged” camping experience, Mammoth Cave National Park’s Backcountry Camping is perfect. Hike, paddle, or ride your horse to one of the park’s primitive campsites, riverside flood plains, or river islands, and experience the outdoors!


Permit Required

All camping in the backcountry and along the rivers in Mammoth Cave National Park requires a permit.

Backcountry Camping Permit

Backcountry camping permits are $10.00 and are available for advance or same-day reservations through or by visiting the Mammoth Cave Campground information kiosk. Getting permits in person during the summer may be easier at the Campground as the Visitor Center can be busy.

During the winter season, visitors must visit the park visitor center for permits.

Riverside and Island Camping Permit

Riverside or Island camping permits are $10.00 per trip. Permits available online, up to a week in advance. Permits are subject to cancelation due to river levels. River levels must remain below 20 feet.

What You Must Provide

When getting your backcountry or riverside camping permit, please be prepared to provide:

  • Driver's License Photo ID

  • Make/model of your vehicle

  • License Plate Number

Backcountry Safety

Travel in Mammoth Cave National Park’s backcountry has inherent risks such as ticks, snakes, and poison ivy. Campers are responsible for their own safety. Before you set out, make sure you come prepared. Learn more about hiking safety and River Safety and Regulations.

Rules and Regulations

A number of regulations apply when camping within the park. It is the responsibility of all trip participants to know and obey the Camping Regulations that apply to the park’s backcountry.

Explore more topics on backcountry adventure



Backcountry Sites

The park offers thirteen designated backcountry campsites that are accessible only by hiking or horseback. You must be at your site to camp.

  • Backcounty sites are primitive, with only a fire ring and horse hitching posts available.

  • All sites except McCoy Hollow have a nearby water source, but campers should boil and treat water before drinking, or plan to carry in drinking water.

  • Campsites are limited to one party up to eight people in size.
  • Pickup a Backcountry map at the Mammoth Cave Campground information kiosk, or the Visitor Information desk.
  • Permit Required - $10 per trip. Reservations through

Riverside and Island Camping

Overnight camping is permitted along floodplains and on islands along the Green and Nolin Rivers. You CANNOT access this camping from your car. Camping in these areas is only accessible by boat. You must be on the river.

  • When camping on floodplains, campers must camp at least ½ mile away from Green River Ferry, Houchin Ferry and Dennison Ferry Day Use Area.

  • Know where you are. Riverside camping on private lands outside the park may not be permitted.

  • Sudden rainstorms can cause rapid flooding along riverways and river levels and currents fluctuate dramatically, particularly during winter months. Always check the river level , river forecast, and weather forecast before launching or camping along the rivers.
  • Pickup a Backcountry map at the Mammoth Cave Campground information kiosk, or the Visitor Information desk. Map
  • Permit Required - $10 per trip. Permits available online, up to a week in advance. Reservations through Permits are subject to cancelation due to river levels. River levels must remain below 20 feet.

Current River Level and Forecast at the Green River

The National Weather Service in Louisville in coordination with the Ohio River Forecast Center maintains a Daily Forecast for the Green River at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Flood Warnings will be issued on the National Weather Service site when water levels are expected to reach or exceed the Minor Flood Stage level of 32 feet.

The following flood stages have been established at Mammoth Cave, KY:
Action: 20 ft.
Minor: 32 ft.
Moderate: 57 ft.
Major: 62 ft.


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Inside the Mammoth Cave Visitor Center, a ranger answers visitors' questions at the info desk.
Camping Regulations

Take time to learn how you can protect Mammoth Cave's campsites while staying in the park.

Three canoes await adventure on the Green River.
Canoeing, Kayaking, and Boating

Plan your trip along the Green and Nolin Rivers.

Park personnel in life jackets perform river rescue training.
River Safety and Regulations

Learn ways to ensure your safety while boating in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Two hikers hike of a trail covered in leaves.
Backcountry Trails

Explore over 60 miles of trails on the north side of the park.

Close shot of horse standing in a brightly wooded area.
Horseback Riding

Those who love to see the world from horseback are in luck! Explore 60 miles of backcountry trails suitable for many skills and ages.

Fog descends as a park ranger addresses a group above the large Historic Entrance  of Mammoth Cave.

Caves, rivers, and many other places in the park may pose safety concerns. Learn how you can have a safe, memorable experience.


Last updated: June 5, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


270 758-2180

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