Spectacular subterranean treasure in Kentucky Cave Country.
By Hope S. Philbrick
The idea for this travel series theme “Under Kentucky” appealed to me before I stopped to analyze the fact that researching it would require me to go underground into dark, rocky holes in the earth that are occupied by bats.
Not typically my first choice of activities.
Cub Run is the cave that made me fall in love with caves.
Geologically newer than some of its neighbors, Cub Run is a beautiful anomaly that belongs to a “different system of limestone than Mammoth Cave, Hidden River Cave and other caves in this area,” says tour guide Linda Cook. Colorful formations include flow stone, rim stone dams, cave corals, stalactites, stalagmites, a reflecting pool, and more. It’s also one of only four caves in the U.S. to have the rare formation called box work.
But you need not know what any of that geological stuff is to appreciate this cave. It’s much more impressive than the average hole in the ground, reminiscent of Superman’s fortress of solitude, but less blue.
Cub Run Cave is beautiful. If Native Americans had discovered this cave, they would have revered it. But it was discovered rather recently: On August 18, 1950, two adventurous boys slithered on their bellies through a hole on a flowing creek to see what was on the other side.
After the cave was discovered and enjoyed a brief time, it was sealed for 55 years due to land disputes. The privately owned cave was reopened in 2006 after a half-mile network of boardwalks was constructed and lighting added to make it easy to explore. Now it’s one of the most accessible caves in the region.
Beyond the formations, there’s wildlife to discover including blind cave crawfish, salamanders, crickets and (especially during winter months) sleeping bats. On the July day that I toured the cave, I saw one tiny bat hanging from the ceiling and—believe me, no one was more surprised by this than me—exclaimed, “Oh, he’s so cute!” About the size of a golf ball, he awoke long enough to lick his arm like a cat; later that night he likely ventured outside to eat a lot of mosquitoes.
“I fell in love with this cave,” says Cook, who enjoys her job so much that she says it’s like “spreading joy. I get to see people from all over the world—and language problems cease inside the cave.”
That’s easy to believe because Cub Run Cave is so other-worldly it’s hard to know what to say when faced with its wonders. The natural beauty of the place will take your breath away.
What Distinguishes This Cave…
Cub Run Cave boasts formations galore: Be amazed by nature every direction you look. Because the cave is privately owned, some of the rules and regulations required by public caves don’t apply here—and the good/surprising news is that you’ll feel even safer on these boardwalks than most others because they’re covered with a metal mesh to prevent slipping. The boardwalks are wide and there are just 14 steps to climb/descend at one point of the tour, so if you’re wheelchair-bound (or otherwise find stairs a challenge) but have strong travel companions who can carry you up and down that distance, you could easily roll through the remainder of the tour. (Parents with children have brought wagons and/or strollers.)
The cave is 150-feet below the surface at its deepest point.
Odds of Encountering Children…
Variable. I saw no children during my visit in mid July, but that is not guaranteed. Depending on when you visit, you might easily encounter one family or several, a scout troop or school group. For the best odds, visit when school is in session. Cub Run Cave is privately owned, so you may be able to book a private tour.
Exit 65 off I-65 at Munfordville. Turn right at the end of the ramp. Turn right at caution light at the Highway 88 intersection. Drive 15 miles to the Cub Run Gift Shop; go inside for tickets and information.
Cub Run Cave
Horse Cave/Hart County Tourist Commission
Read More about the subterranean world “Under Kentucky”
– Top photo © HSP Media LLC; reflecting pool © Horse Cave Hart County Tourism; postcards courtesy Cub Run Cave
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.