Our adventure began with our accommodations on Friday night.
Koa Avenue, KOA Ave, Kentucky 42749, USA
Horse Cave KOA
is home to large covered wagons to spend the night and it was the perfect hub for our Kentucky adventures -- just twenty minutes from the entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park. The spacious outdoor space came with its own grill, a swing, a picnic table, and a fire pit with Adirondack chairs.
When we opened the door to the covered wagon, we were amazed at the clever use of space and the welcoming vibe.
They took the time to set the air conditioning for us so it would be cool when we arrived and they even had a tray on the bed with K-Cups to make coffee. This wasn't just camping, it was
And the view in the morning -- simply phenomenal.
The covered wagons were positioned to face the farmland next door. As the sun was starting to peek over the trees, dense fog settled in around us making a beautiful swirl of hazy colors. For a full tour of the covered wagon and a couple of other features of the Horse Cave KOA, including the morning scenery, check out this video.
We bought our tickets for the Mammoth Cave Historic Tour a week before we left and had an early time slot, so we woke up with excitement and headed to the park.
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, USA
We joined our group and walked down a paved path to the cave entrance. A long staircase leading into Mammoth Cave was made better by the waterfall steadily falling to our left. The cool air rushed out of the deep cavern as we descended. Soon, the darkness surrounded us, and the sunlight from outside faded. Soon the only light source was the spotlights illuminating many of the awesome rock formations.
We soon entered a room that seemed like the size of a football stadium.
It was so much bigger than we expected. Large tunnels guided us down the well-marked path. The ranger was knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor. The stories he told about the history of
were fascinating, but eventually, we ended up at the back to take more pictures. We ended up missing a few things our guide said, though, so I would suggest sticking close if you are interested in the history.
One of our favorite sections was a place called “Fat Mans Misery.”
This was a tight section of the cave where the roof is much lower, the rock around your feet is very close, and the walls force you to have to twist and move around it. Luckily, it was passable with minimal effort - I am almost six feet tall and during the last section, I had to crouch and climb over rocks but it lasted approximately ten feet. The tight corridors and twisting rocks made for a fun and adventurous experience. To learn more about the two-hour tour, check out our video.
When we emerged from underground, the bright sun seemed to shine brighter as our eyes adjusted.
The trails you'll find topside are also worth exploring. After perusing the visitor's center, we hit the trails in the area. Forested trails gave way to overlooks of the Green River and the surrounding gorge in addition to fascinating rock formations. Leave yourself plenty of time to explore both above and below ground. Check out the trails we hiked in this video.
After spending the morning in Mammoth Cave, we headed north.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, 2995 Lincoln Farm Rd, Hodgenville, KY 42748, USA
Our next stop was
Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace Memorial.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a well-kept green space and a large staircase leading up to the monument. We traveled up the fifty-six steps leading to the memorial and once inside, we viewed the replica cabin that was created to represent the humble beginnings of one America's greatest presidents.
We also walked down to witness the Sinking Spring, a hole in the ground that naturally dripped water and was most likely the water source for the Lincoln family. Witness this memorial in Kentucky yourself in this video we made.
Our next stop was the Bernheim Arboretum. We were mostly excited to see the three giant forest trolls hidden throughout the property, but we were in for a special treat.
Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, 2075 Clermont Rd, Clermont, KY 40110, USA
was hosting its annual Connect event. This event takes place every summer and brings in musicians, unique art installations, and special lights to illuminate the trolls. We didn't know about the event in advance, but decided to stay and enjoy. Bernheim was huge and you can easily spend all day exploring.
My favorite part was the trolls. Positioned around the Arboretum, each of the three trolls has an interesting story to tell. The biggest troll is pregnant and laying down by some trees while her daughter plays in a field; her son is by the pond.
The trolls are made from discarded wood from whisky barrels and other wooden scraps.
We walked to see them in daylight, and then again at night to see them lit up.
The contrast was stunning after dark. Walking around at night with lit-up paths made for another fun and immersive experience. Check out our time at Bernheim with all of the other great things we found in the arboretum in this video.
The next day, we couldn’t bare the thought of leaving the area without one more trip into the depth of the earth.
Thankfully Mammoth Cave had tickets available early in the morning again - this time we chose the Domes and Dripstone Tour. The first half of the tour starts by leading you into what looks like an old military bunker. Unlike the day before, when we walked into an epic cave entrance, this tour starts with a humble metal door. Winding staircases lead you further and deeper into Mammoth Cave once again. where we found tight quarters that had us ducking low-hanging ceilings and twisting around small spaces. Many sections have you also walking across a bridge with a massive drop underfoot.
The second half leads to Frozen Niagara. This section is more open, but is covered from ceiling to floor with incredible dripstone formations.
Large stalagmites and stalactites were beautifully formed by the dripping water all around the cave. Dynamic lighting plays on the shadows and I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t allowed to stay forever though, so I caught up with my family and followed the path out of the cave once more. I highly suggest both tours that we did. Each offered a unique experience filled with fun and amazement at every turn. If you want to see the whole tour, here's our video.
It was time to make the long trip home, but not without one last stop. We
read about this little town called Horse Cave perched on top of a big cave.
Horse Cave, KY 42749, USA
The town was positively charming, with a massive mural proudly showcasing its name on the side of a building. We snapped a picture and then crossed the street to look at the entrance of Hidden River Cave.
This opening is nothing short of breathtaking. With layers of jagged rocks, lush green moss, and overhanging vines, it certainly was well worth the stop.
They also have a small free museum inside the building next to the cave. There were lots of cool features with interactive elements and informative signs about the caves in Kentucky. It was a quick stop, and a fitting end to our epic cave weekend. If you want to take a look at Horse Cave, watch this video.
To discover more incredible boots-on-the-ground adventures across America from our team of local travel experts, check out all of the articles in
OnlyInYourState’s Everyday Explorers series. What destinations would you like to see featured next on OnlyInYourState’s Everyday Explorers? Tell us where we should go on our nominations page.
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