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A challenging & fun loop along the Green River near the park's visitor center.

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837' 255 m


481' 147 m


831' 253 m


831' 253 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (13°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildlife

Family Friendly With many loops, it's easy to shorten this route as your family sees fit. The mild elevation change keeps things interesting without being overly strenuous.


This route is a six mile loop exploring some of the trail network around the Mammoth Cave Visitor Center. Don't be fooled by it's proximity to the visitor center, these aren't bunny trails!

Need to Know

This takes several trails, so pay attention at all intersections. During the summer months, the trails are quite busy with many visitors and families.


The most common loop in the visitor center area takes us from the parking lot at the Mammoth Cave Hotel along the short paved trail by the Ampitheater. Say goodbye to concrete for a bit and enter the trees on the boardwalk. This is the Campground Trail that is a very short jaunt to the edge of the Mammoth Cave Campground. Be careful on the boardwalk sections, they are extremely slick when wet.

Hang a right onto the wide Whites Cave Trail when you emerge from the boardwalk. Enjoy the flat start and elbow room as you descend into the Kentucky forest while the trail takes a fun downhill slant. There are several steps built into the trail, so keep an eye on your footing. The trail ends at an intersection with the Sinkhole Trail, so take a left here. You'll stay on the downhill section for just a bit and stop at the intersection with the Echo River Springs Trail. You have two options here: take a left to the Green River Ferry parking area and porta potty (keep that in mind!) while enjoying the view of the Echo River Springs or hang a right and keep hiking.

Continuing on the Echo River Springs Trail, the path opens up again under the forest canopy with wide trails. Follow this fairly flat section of trail to the boardwalk over the River Styx Spring. The trail takes a steep curve to the left and drops down to a big intersection with numerous trails. The short boardwalk overlooking the Spring is a nice diversion, but point down towards the river and find the Green River Bluffs Trail. Keeping the river on your left, start going uphill. There are a set of switchbacks about a quarter mile in that help, but it's a good steep climb. Once you top out, stay on the Bluffs trail while it still trends uphill, culminating in a steady half-mile climb that you just have to grind away on.

The trail ends at a road in the Mammoth Cave Picnic Area and amenities like bathrooms can be found across the street and a pavilion if you need to sit down. Once you've caught your breath and you don't feel your heartbeat in your teeth any more, turn right (from the trailhead) and follow the road down as it arches to the left. Be on the lookout for a small trail off the road to the right and drop into the next road section.

Hang to the right and the road forms a small cul-de-sac and take the wooden stairs down the Dixon Cave Overlook Trail. When you reach Dixon Cave, veer to the left and head down the Dixon Cave Trail in a fun descent to the Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave. You'll notice quite the drop in temperature here, so bask for a minute and head up the paved Historic Entrance Trail, for a few yards then take the Old Guides Trail to the right for a steep climb to the Mammoth Cave Hotel.

You could stop here, but why? At the top of the stairs, take a right onto the Heritage Trail and stay left when you reach the Old Guides Cemetery to reconnect with the Sinkhole Trail. This is a fun downhill with tricky footwork. After the intersection with the River Valley Trail to the right, it takes a slight uphill heading and joins the White Caves Trail to the left. Follow that back the way you started to the parking lot!

Alternatively, at the end of the Green River Bluffs Trail, you can turn left and follow the road in a straight shot to the visitor center parking lot, but you'll miss the Dixon Cave Trail (which is super fun).

Flora & Fauna

Traditional Kentucky forest with ferns, hardwood trees, poison ivy, turkey and deer.

History & Background

This route takes you through the heart of Mammoth Cave and drops by the Historic Entrance, which is definitely worth stopping for!


Shared By:

Clinton Lewis

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 12 votes


in South Side


  4.2 from 12 votes
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13 Views Last Month
4,172 Since May 26, 2016



Visitors learn about Mammoth Cave from a ranger in the Broadway section of the cave.
Jun 1, 2017 near Brownsv…, KY
Visitors enjoy the narrow passage of Thanksgiving Hall in Mammoth Cave. Photo credit: NPS Photo.
Jun 1, 2017 near Brownsv…, KY
Mammoth Cave National Park
Apr 3, 2020 near Brownsv…, KY
On the boardwalk through the trees.
May 26, 2016 near Brownsv…, KY
The underground River Styx emerges.
Jun 1, 2017 near Brownsv…, KY
Mammoth Cave National Park
Apr 3, 2020 near Brownsv…, KY



Current Trail Conditions

All Clear 51 days ago
Add Your Check-In


Apr 8, 2023
Benjamin Algera
Feb 19, 2023
Kazuki Ko
Mar 20, 2022
Eric Jones
Oct 17, 2021
Cristin Dolan
Oct 10, 2021
Sarah Myldy
May 14, 2021
Allison K
Loops as described but last part was heritage trail. Didn't do the full loop 5mi
May 2, 2021
Dr Karena Gongola
Very nice hike 4.5mi — 10h 00m
Dec 22, 2020
Cindy Cunningham