National parks of the US are meant to showcase what is particularly unique about a piece of land in the country. Depending on what comes to your mind when you think of national parks in the country, you may not realize that three of the country’s national parks are dedicated to showcasing the breathtaking beauty of America’s caves. So, today, I would like to highlight the three national parks that are centered on caves.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the central portion of the US state of Kentucky just northeast of Bowling Green. This national park is home to the longest known cave system in the world at 400-plus miles long. Not just that, but also more mileages continue to be added over time as the cave system continue to be explored. Mammoth Cave is noted for its limestone formations with luminous shapes.
The cave houses an underground river and shallow pools. Also located in the cave are grand, high-ceiling cave rooms located deep underground. The cave is known for being the home to a variety of bats. These include the Indiana bat, the gray bat, the little brown bat, the big brown bat, and the eastern pipistrelle bat. In addition to these bats, the cave is also home to eyeless cave-dwelling crayfishes and shrimps.
Mammoth Cave can only be explored as a part of a guided tour. There are a variety of cave tours available during the spring scheduling season which starts today and lasts until May 22nd, 2020. One such tour is the Frozen Niagara Tour. The centerpiece of this tour is the Frozen Niagara room. This is one of the must famous underground cave rooms in the cave.
The Frozen Niagara room is filled with natural decoration. This is an easy tour to take part in and only requires you to take on twelve steps. This tour travels for around one-fourth mile round trip. Another tour to mention is the River Styx Cave Tour. This cave tour travels along the cave’s underground river, River Styx.
This tour is aimed at geology buffs wanting a deeper look at how Mammoth Cave had taken form over millions of years. This tour is moderate in difficulty and requires a total of 600 stairs to climb. The distance is about 2 and a half miles for this tour. Each of the cave tours at Mammoth Cave require separate tickets in order to take part in them. The prices for the tickets varies by cave tours.
For example, the tickets for the Frozen Niagara Tour go for $14 for adults, $10 for youth, and $7 for special access. You can go here to check the cave tour schedule and make a reservation for a tour.
Hotel Suggestion: Holiday Inn University Plaza – Bowling Green
This hotel is located on Wilkinson Terrance in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There is an onsite restaurant at the hotel called The Hartland Cafe. Atrium Lounge is the hotel’s onsite bar while Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop is where you can order a cup of coffee onsite. The hotel houses an interior garden atrium for a serene environment. There is also an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel.
A fitness center is available for you to use during your stay. The hotel rooms come with WiFi and coffee makers while the suites also come with mini refrigerators, microwaves, wet bars, and separate bedrooms and living/dining areas. The average rate for a standard room range from $106 to $186. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or view some photos.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the southeastern area of the US state of New Mexico, near the state border with Texas. There are actually more than 119 caves within this national park, but Carlsbad Cavern is the most well-known cave and the focus cave for most tours. Carlsbad Cavern is renowned for its network of vast underground chambers.
Those vast underground chambers are up to 250 feet tall from the floor to the ceiling. They house stunning limestone formations of various colors and shapes. Many of the limestone formations are lit up with electric lights in order to make them more visible. Carlsbad Cavern is also noted for being the home to a group of bats called the Mexican free-tail bats. They take refuge in the cave from April to September.
There are two categories of tours available to explore Carlsbad Cavern. The first category of tours is the self-guided tour. This is where you can explore the cave on your own. There are rangers stationed along the way to answer any questions you may have as you explore. There are two self-guided tour routes available for you to explore the cave.
The first one is called the Big Room Trail. This is most certainly the easy route with mostly flat terrain along the way. The centerpiece of this self-guided tour is the Big Room. This is the largest underground chamber in this cave. The Big Room measures almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet tall. This self-guided route lasts for about 1.25 miles.
The second self-guided tour route in the cave, on the other hand, is the challenging one. It is called the Natural Entrance Trail. It is an extremely steep route, but one that also rewards you with stunning limestone formations including Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth, and Iceberg Rock. This route is about 1.25 miles long. The other category of tours for exploring Carlsbad Cavern is the guided tour.
There are four guided tours in this cave. They are King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Lower Cave, and Hall of the White Giant. These guided tours will explore the other branches of the cave that aren’t available for self-guided tours. The entrance fee for Carlsbad Cavern is $15 for adults aged 16 and up. Those aged under 15 get free entrance. The entrance tickets are good for three days and can be used for self-guided tours.
The guided tours, however, will each require an additional ticket to take part in. You can view the guided tour schedule and make a reservation for one of them by going here.
Hotel Suggestion: Sleep Inn & Suites
This hotel is located on National Parks Highway in Carlsbad, New Mexico just northeast of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. If you get hungry, a few nearby options include Blue House Bakery and Cafe, The Trinity Hotel Restaurant, and YellowBrix Restaurant. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and fitness center available.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites have WiFI, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $143 to $277. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is located in the southwestern corner of the US state of South Dakota, near the state border with Montana and Wyoming. This is the first cave to be designed as a national park in the United States and the world. Wind Cave received its name because of barometric winds at its entrance. The cave is renowned for its boxwork formations.
Boxwork formations are rare anywhere else in the world. In fact, about 95 percent of the boxwork formations on Earth are found in Wind Cave. In addition to the rare boxwork formations, the cave is home to frostwork and popcorn formations. There are three guided cave tours that you can take part in. These are Garden of Eden Tour, Natural Entrance Tour, and Fairgrounds Tour.
In terms of hiking skill levels, the first two guided cave tours are moderate while the third one is challenging. The amount of stairs to climb range from 150 for Garden of Eden Tour t0 450 for Fairgrounds Tour. Each of these three tours will each require a ticket to participate. The first tour goes for $10 for adults and $5 for ages 6 to 16. The second and third tours will each go for $12 for adults and $6 for ages 6 to 16.
All of the three tours are free for those aged under 6. There are unfortunately no self-guided tours available at Wind Cave. You can head here to check the schedule for the guided tours.
Hotel Suggestion: Baymont by Wyndham Hot Springs
This hotel is located on South 6th Street in Hot Springs, South Dakota just south of Wind Cave National Park. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. For the hungry, a few nearby restaurants include Woolly’s Grill & Cellar, Big Time Pizza, and Dairy Queen. If you are looking to have a cookout, there are barbeque facilities available outdoors at the hotel for that.
The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. There is also a fitness center for your workout needs. All of the hotel’s rooms will have WiFi, coffee makers, mini refrigerators, and microwaves. The average rate for a standard room range from $62 to $155. You can go here to view your booking options and/or browse some photos.
These are the national parks of the US that are dedicated to showcasing the beauty of the country’s caves. So, if you are itching to explore a cave, you will want to consider one of these caves.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced any of these caves before? Feel free to leave a comment below.