By Hope S. Philbrick
“Caves are like snowflakes,” says Dave Foster, geologist and executive director of Hidden River Cave and the American Cave Museum. “No two are alike. You need to see them all. They’re all different”
Indeed, after a week touring seven of the underground attractions Kentucky has to offer along Interstate 65—Kentucky Cave Country stretches from Bowling Green to Louisville, if driving north—it’s clear that a whole other world lurks beneath the bourbon distilleries, thoroughbred farms, quilt barns and museums, Lincoln historic sites and rolling fields of bluegrass that you may already think define the state.
Until you see what’s under Kentucky, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Timid? Fear not: In Kentucky’s caves there’s little chance of an avalanche or sinkhole. “The risk is considerably lower than getting struck by lightning,” says Foster. “These caves are formed naturally over a long period of time and are stable.” Temperatures are also consistent at a comfortable 56 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Make the trip as adventurous as you dare: Crawl through crevices spelunking, stand upright in vast caverns, stroll along well-illuminated boardwalks, float in an underground river, rappel into the mouth of a cave or zip-line over it, take a guided historical tour, and even dance at the site of a former hidden nightclub.
Just be prepared to blink at the sunlight when you emerge.
Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Outlaw Cave at Kentucky Action Park in Cave City, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Hidden River Cave in Horse Cave, Kentucky
Mammoth Onyx Cave in Horse Cave, Kentucky
Cub Run Cave in Cub Run, Kentucky
Mega Cavern in Louisville, Kentucky
@21plus Travel Tip: Be a responsible grownup! Since its discovery in 2006, White Nose Syndrome is responsible for the deaths of millions of hibernating bats across the eastern U.S. and Canada. To prevent the spread of the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome, do not wear the same clothing or shoes to multiple cave tours—whatever you wear during one cave tour should not be worn during another cave tour (unless the items have been thoroughly laundered in the meantime). Don’t think that not touching anything during your cave tour exempts you from this important precautionary measure. Save the bats: They eat mosquitoes!
Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Cave City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Horse Cave/Hart County Tourist Commission
Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau
– Photo © HSP Media LLC; map courtesy Horse Cave Hart County Tourism
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.