“A loop through the heart of Mammoth Cave's karst country.”
— Clinton Lewis
Birding · Fall Colors · Wildlife
This 9-mile route links together some of Mammoth Cave's most popular trails for a fun loop above the cave system.
Beginning with old fire roads and transitioning to singletrack, the routes are well marked and frequented by hikers and horses. Due to the traffic, several sections have been eroded due to use and can be tricky to navigate. Good mix of sustained hills and fun downhill sections.
Need to Know
Due to horse use, the hill at mile 3 can be really sloppy and challenging. Once you get off the wide Buffalo Creek Trail
onto the singletrack sections, the trails are blazed well, but the direction signs are smaller sized, be sure to pay attention. The long climb out at mile 8 is a quad burner and the trail has been modified at the end leading to Maple Springs Loop Road. Just follow the signs.
Starting at the Maple Springs trailhead, the route follows the popular Buffalo Creek Trail
on the old fire road for 2.5 miles. Veer to the right at the intersection with the Bluffs Campsite trail to stay on the Buffalo Creek Trail
. Here, it transitions to one of the best singletrack sections in the park. Quickly moving downhill, you'll cross a couple of creeks (dry at times) and hit the first hill around mile 3. Due to horse use, this part can get very sloppy and challenging. Once you scrape the mud & "other natural material" from your shoes, continue uphill to the juncture with the Collie Ridge Trail
This is a great spot to take in a gel or snack, since there is a trashcan available. Head to the right, moving uphill on the doubletrack Collie Ridge Trail
for about 2 miles. At mile 6.1, look for the Mill Branch Trail
intersection on your right.
Mill Branch is a less-frequently used trail, but it is great for hiking. Trending mostly downhill, there is a moderately technical descent around mile 7 that immediately goes into a creek crossing and rocky climb. Close to the 8-mile mark, you'll follow a creek on your right and begin the long, slow climb out of the hollow. Note that some of the blazes still have the initials of the old trail name (Raymer Hollow Trail
), but they will not lead you astray. At the end of the climb, the trail direction has been modified, so follow the signs to the left to meet Maple Springs Loop Road.
From here you can walk the road back to the parking lot (.8 mile, big hill), or continue straight to stay on the mile-long Maple Springs Trail
of gently rolling hills back.