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Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky, is one of America’s most unique national parks. The park preserves the longest cave system in the world, known as Mammoth Cave, which contains a staggering 400+ miles of underground tunnels. In addition to the cave system, the park also preserves a variety of landscapes including rivers, dense forest, and an incredible diversity of animal and plant life.

The only national park in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is easily accessed from many major cities in the mid-west and south. Given this, we think the best way to experience Mammoth Cave National Park is to spend a night sleeping in your tent or RV, where you’ll get to experience this incredible environment first hand. 

The park features plenty of camping opportunities, from the three developed campgrounds, to the thirteen backcountry campsites, as well as opportunities for camping along one of the park’s beautiful rivers. In addition to the campgrounds founds within Mammoth Cave, there are also great options for RV and car camping, and a few free campsites just outside the park’s boundary. Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Mammoth Cave National Park.

In this Post

 

Mammoth Cave National Park Campgrounds

Mammoth Cave National Park is well served by a variety of campgrounds. Visitors are likely to access the park from the south, where the main visitor center is located. The park is generally divided into a northern and southern section, with the Green River serving as the dividing line. Campgrounds are provided in both sections, with the majority of the backcountry campsites located in the less-developed northern section of Mammoth Cave.

There are three “front country” developed campgrounds located in Mammoth Cave National Park. These campgrounds are well dispersed and provide visitors with great camping options regardless of which section of Mammoth Cave they plan on exploring.

In addition, there are thirteen backcountry campgrounds located in the wilderness of Mammoth Cave. These backcountry campsites are concentrated in the north-west section of Mammoth Cave and can be accessed by a number of excellent hiking trails. Finally, those who plan to camp along either the Green or Nolan Rivers will have nearly unlimited options in the national park.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of these campgrounds are located in Mammoth Cave National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park

Campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Of the developed campgrounds, only the Houchin Ferry Campground is open year round. Both Mammoth Cave and Maple Springs Campgrounds are closed seasonally from December 1st – February 28th.

Keep reading to learn about reservations and permits for camping in Mammoth Cave National Park. 

Reservations & Permits

Reservations are required for all of the campsites within Mammoth Cave National Park. This includes the park’s three developed campgrounds as well as the thirteen backcountry sites. To make a reservation at any of the campgrounds in Mammoth Cave, head over to Recreation.gov, which handles all booking for the national park.

Reservations are generally available on a 6-month rolling basis, with availability opening up at 10am ET for 6 months out. We highly recommend making your reservation as early as possible, especially on busy summer weekends, as all of the campgrounds in the park are known to fill up.

Reservations for Mammoth Cave National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Recreation.gov

The Mammoth Cave and Maple Springs Campgrounds only accept reservations from March 1st – November 30th each year, while the more basic Houchin Ferry Campground accepts reservations year round.

Boats along the Green River.

 

For the adventurous campers out there who hope to plan a backcountry camping or riverside camping trip in Mammoth Cave National Park you’ll also need to secure a permit in advance.

The thirteen backcountry campsites in the national park have an online reservation system that requires advance booking. This can be done online through Recreation.gov or by visiting the Mammoth Cave Campground information kiosk. Permits cost $10 regardless of the number of nights you plan on camping. We recommend utilizing Recreation.gov for this as you’ll have a better chance of getting your desired campground if you book in advance.

Click here to reserve you backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park

For riverside camping in Mammoth Cave you do not need advance reservations, but a permit is required. This can be obtained the day of your trip for free at the Mammoth Cave Campground Kiosk.

Learn more about backcountry & riverside camping in Mammoth Cave in this section.

What to bring on your Mammoth Cave National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Mammoth Cave National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Shenandoah:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up classic campsite dinners.
  • Tick repellent– Ticks are common throughout this part of Kentucky, and while it is always a good idea to wear long pants, this tick repellent from Ben’s is worth applying when out hiking or camping.
  • Portable water container – Save yourself the countless trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Mammoth Cave National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Mammoth Cave Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Mammoth Cave.

When to Camp in Mammoth Cave National Park

Only the Houchin Ferry Campground in Mammoth Cave is open year-round, with the other two developed campgrounds closed seasonally during the winter months from December 1st – February 28th. Peak season for camping in Mammoth Cave National Park is generally during the summer months from May – September.

Winter in Mammoth Cave brings colder weather, with average daily temperatures from December – February in the 35 – 40 degree range. The park warms considerably heading into the Spring with average daily highs reaching into the 60s by April. Summer brings hot and humid days, although still a very pleasant time to camp. 

We think the best time to camp in Mammoth Cave National Park is from April – October when temperatures are warm. Summer months will be hotter, but you’ll be able to take advantage of the many things to do in the national park.

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Mammoth Cave National Park here. 

Autumn colors in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Autumn can be a lovely time to camp in Mammoth Cave National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Developed Campgrounds

There are three developed campgrounds located in Mammoth Cave National Park. These campgrounds are easily accessed via the park’s excellent road network and offer a variety of camping experiences.

Keep reading for all the details. 

Mammoth Cave Campground

Number of Sites: 111 sites
Fee: $20/night for individual sites // $50/night for full hookup RV sites
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 38′.
Reservations: Available from March 1st – November 30th. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open from March 1st – November 30th.
More Information

The Mammoth Cave Campground

Mammoth Cave Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Mammoth Cave Campground is the largest and most popular campground in Mammoth Cave National Park. Located adjacent to the visitor center and hub of activity for the park, this is a very convenient place to spend the night.

The campground is perfect for those looking to take an iconic cave tour, hike the Green River Bluffs trail, or tackle the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail. Be sure to visit the nearby Mammoth Cave Visitor Center for an excellent introduction to the park and great information on all Mammoth Cave has to offer.

The Mammoth Cave Campground features 111 campsites that can accommodate tents, RVs, and even some larger groups. 37 of the campsites are tent-only, while there are four group campsites that can accommodate up to 16 people each. The remaining sites can accommodate both tents and RVs, and will be perfect for most campers.

The campground is organized into three loops, with each loop featuring restrooms and drinking water. Nearby you’ll find the Caver’s Camp Store, which stocks essentials that you may have forgotten.

Campsites at the Mammoth Cave Campground are reservable up to six months in advance during peak season, from March 1st – November 30th each year.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Mammoth Cave Campground

Check out the map linked below for a detailed map of the campground as well as more information on the features of each campsite.

Map of the Mammoth Cave Campground.

Map of the Mammoth Cave Campground. Courtesy of NPS.

 

Maple Springs Group Campground

Number of Sites: 8 sites, including two with electric/water hookups
Fee: $25 – $35/night depending on hookups
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 40′.
Reservations: Available from March 1st – November 30th. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open from March 1st – November 30th.
More Information

Picnic tables at the Maple Springs Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park

Maple Springs Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Maple Springs Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park features eight campsites that can accommodate large groups as well as equestrian users. Located on the north side of the Green River, this is an excellent campground for those looking to escape from the busy visitor center area.

Maple Springs is perfect for groups hoping to hike on the Sal Hollow and Buffalo Creek Trail or visit the historic Good Spring Church.

The eight campsites at Maple Springs are designed to accommodate a variety of users. There is a single group site for those without horses that can accommodate up to 16 campers, as well as equestrian group sites both with and without electric hookups. Head over to Recreation.gov at the link below to learn more about the specific sites and to reserve.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Maple Springs Campground

All of the campsites at Maple Springs include a picnic table, fire ring and access to potable water.

Campsites at the Maple Springs Campground are reservable up to six months in advance during peak season, from March 1st – November 30th each year.

 

Houchin Ferry Campground

Number of Sites: 12 tent-only sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Not allowed.
Reservations: Required year round. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Tent at the Houchin Ferry Campground

Houchin Ferry Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Houchin Ferry Campground is located in Mammoth Cave’s far northwest corner and is easily accessed from the nearby town of Brownsville, KY. Located on the Green River, the Houchin Ferry Campground is small and only accommodates tents, making it the perfect rustic escape.

Those camping here will be well positioned for a boat trip on the Green River and still only a short drive from the main visitor center and park attractions.

Houchin Ferry features 12 tent-only campsites tucked into a serene location along the river. The campsites all feature fire rings, picnic tables, and easy access to drinking water. Houchin Ferry is the only campground in Mammoth Cave National Park that is open year-round, making it attractive for the hearty winter campers out there!

Campsites at the Houchin Ferry Campground are reservable up to six months in advance at the link below.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Houchin Ferry Campground

 

Backcountry camping in Mammoth Cave National Park

In addition to the developed campgrounds described in the section above, Mammoth Cave National Park also provides incredible opportunities for the adventurous campers out there. The park features miles of hiking trails that connect a system of 13 backcountry campsites and also allows for backcountry camping along the Green and Nolan Rivers for those on a float trip.

The primitive nature of these campsites means you won’t find any bathrooms, water taps, or other amenities that the developed campgrounds in the park offer. In exchange for roughing it you’ll be treated to a solitude only possible by venturing off the beaten path!

The National Park Service publishes an excellent Backcountry Map & Guide available here. 

Keep reading to learn more about backcountry camping in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Riverside Camping in Mammoth Cave

A unique way to experience Mammoth Cave National Park is to take a river camping trip along the Green or Nolan Rivers. These beautiful rivers provide a level of solitude that is difficult to come by in other sections of the park. Camping along either of these rivers couldn’t be easier, just be sure to follow these simple regulations:

  • Obtain a free riverside camping permit at the Mammoth Cave Campground prior to setting out.
  • Camping is permitted on the river shores as well as islands within the park boundary.
    • The exception is that camping is prohibited within the Green River Ferry, Houchin Ferry and Dennison Ferry Day Use Area. Camp at least 1/2 mile from any of these locations.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

The NPS also recommends checking water levels before setting out on a riverside camping trip in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Check out all the details on riverside camping from the NPS here.

Backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave

In addition to backcountry riverside camping, Mammoth Cave National Park also allows for traditional backcountry camping at a series of 13 backcountry campsites. These campsites are generally located in the less-visited northwest section of the park and allow visitors to explore a quieter side of Mammoth Cave.

Check out the map below for the location of all thirteen campsites. 

Map of backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Map of backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The campsites must be reserved in advance and users are required to obtain a backcountry use permit for any backpacking trip in Mammoth Cave. The permits cost $10 per group, regardless of the number of nights you plan on camping. The full list of backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park is below:

  • Second Creek
  • First Creek 1
  • First Creek 2
  • Three Springs
  • Ferguson
  • Collie Ridge
  • McCoy Hollow
  • Bluffs
  • Sal Hollow
  • Raymer Hollow
  • Homestead
  • Turnhole Bend
  • White Oak

To reserve your campsites and backcountry use permit you’ll head over to Recreation.gov, which has a full itinerary builder for Mammoth Cave.

Reserve your backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park here.

Backcountry campsite in Mammoth Cave National Park

A backcountry campsite in Mammoth Cave. Photo credit NPS/Mary Schubert.

 

Mammoth Cave National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Mammoth Cave National Park. First, it is important to familiarize yourself with the general camping regulations in the park:

  • For developed campground check-in time is 2pm and check-out is by 11am
  • Generators are permitted from 8am – 8pm at developed campgrounds
  • Quiet hours are 10pm – 6am

For a full list of camping regulations in Mammoth Cave National Park be sure to read the sections below and find the full list of regulations here.

Campfires in Mammoth Cave

Fires are allowed in both the developed campgrounds as well as the 13 established backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave. Campfires must be contained in the provided fire rings and always remember to never leave a fire unattended.

It is also important to not bring any wood with you into Mammoth Cave National Park. Firewood can carry invasive pests that can cause serious damage to the fragile ecosystem. Firewood is available for purchase at the Caver’s Camp Store near the visitor center.

Campfire in a grate.

Fires are permitted in the provided fire grates in Mammoth Cave National Park.

 

Wildlife

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to a huge diversity of wildlife that makes this one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Many of these unique species live deep underground in the cave system and have unique adaptations found nowhere else in the world.

In addition, there are a few animals and insects that campers should be especially aware of:

  • Ticks: Ticks are found throughout Mammoth Cave National Park and campers should be on especially high alert. We suggest wearing light colored clothing, long pants, and frequently check yourself and any pets for ticks.
  • Snakes: Venomous snakes do inhabit the national park, although they tend to be more active at night. Always keep an eye out and leave any snakes you do see undisturbed.
  • Bats: Bats thrive in Mammoth Cave National Park, and while most are harmless it is important to be aware of any signs of rabies. Always leave any bats you encounter alone, especially if they are behaving strangely.

You can find more information on the wildlife of Mammoth Cave National Park here.

 

Pets

Mammoth Cave permits pets within the National Park, although with several strict guidelines as outlined below.

  • Pets must be leashed at all times.
  • Pets are allowed on all trails in the park.
  • Pets are not allowed in any park building or in the caves.
  • Always properly dispose of your pet’s waste.

If you do bring your pet and plan on visiting a section of the park where they are not allowed, the Mammoth Cave Lodge provides a pet boarding service. 

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Mammoth Cave National Park website here.

Dog walking on a trail.

 

Where to get supplies

Unlike many national parks, Mammoth Cave has easy access to several nearby towns with plenty of services. This makes planning a camping trip here convenient, as you’ll have no problem stocking up on supplies before your trip. Check out your best options to pick up camping supplies near Mammoth Cave National Park below:

Camping near Mammoth Cave National Park

The campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park all provide excellent options for your perfect camping trip. However, it is always possible that you may not be able to secure a campsite within the park boundaries or you may want more amenities than what the NPS campgrounds offer.

If that is the case, don’t fret, as there are plenty of great camping options outside of Mammoth Cave National Park. Check out your best bets for RV campgroundscar camping, and free camping near Mammoth Cave National Park below.

RV campgrounds

Those searching for RV campgrounds just outside of Mammoth Cave National Park will have several great options. We’ve organized the campgrounds by their geographic location, either north of the park, or in the southeast of the park near Cave City.

Keep reading to learn more.

RV parked near Mammoth Cave

 

RV Campgrounds near Cave City/Southeast of Mammoth Cave National Park

Rock Cabin Camping

Number of sites: Plenty
Fee: $25 – $33/night for RV sites and $18/night for tent sites
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 270-773-4740.
Pets: Allowed

Located just outside the park boundary, Rock Cabin Camping is a basic but well run campground. Here you can choose from basic tent sites to full hookup RV sites, all at very reasonable prices. There aren’t tons of amenities at the campground, but it does get rave review for the incredibly friendly and helpful owners.

 

Diamond Caverns RV Resort

Number of sites: 68 sites
Fee: $38 – $65/night depending on hookups, RV size.
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

The Diamond Caverns RV Resort is located immediately south of Mammoth Cave National Park and is just a 15 minute drive from the visitor center. This is a large campground which can accommodate all variety of tents and RVs. Amenities include a swimming pool, laundry facilities, WiFi, and a playground. This is a busier campground so we recommend it for those who aren’t looking for a rustic experience.

 

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park – Mammoth Cave

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $36 – $131/night depending on site and amenities
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

Located just 15 minutes from the Mammoth Cave Visitor Center, Jellystone Mammoth Cave is a great option for full service family camping. Here you’ll find tons of family-friendly activities including a huge water slide, jumping pillows, mini-golf, and more. While the campground is certainly more costly than most, it may be worth it if you’ll take advantage of everything on offer.

 

Horse Cave KOA

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $38 – $50/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

The Horse Cave KOA Campground is located a bit further from Mammoth Cave National Park than the other options in this section, but it provides a great option for those looking for a predictable camping experience. Equipped with all the amenities KOA’s are known for, you’ll enjoy a swimming pool, basketball court, laundry facilities and WiFi.

 

RV Campgrounds north of Mammoth Cave National Park

Double J Stables and Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $25/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 270-286-8167.
Pets: Allowed

The Double J Stables and Campground is located immediately north of Mammoth Cave National Park and provides a great campground for both equestrian users as well as those looking for a relaxing place to spend the night. The campground can accommodate RVs with full hookups as well as simple tent camping, all at very affordable rates. Amenities are basic, but include WiFi, fire rings, picnic tables, a playground, and more. Highly recommended, especially those interested in horseback riding in Mammoth Cave!

 

Mammoth Cave Horse Camp

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $16 – $26/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

As the name suggests, Mammoth Cave Horse Camp features campsites that can accommodate anyone traveling with a horse. However, even for those who are just looking for a great campground, Mammoth Cave Horse Camp is a great option. Located on the northwest side of the park, this is a perfect place to spend the night before setting out to explore this less visited section of Mammoth Cave. Affordable rates and friendly staff earn this campground high marks!

 

Car camping sites

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Mammoth Cave National Park you’ll want to check out Nolan Lake State Park, described below. In addition to the campground here, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Mammoth Cave.

Car camping site near Mammoth Cave National Park.

 

Nolan Lake State Park

Number of Sites: 32 full hookup site + 27 primitive tent sites
Fee: $16 – $32/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, hookups available at specific sites.
Reservations: Recommended. Reserve here. 
Pets: Allowed.

Nolan Lake State Park is conveniently located just a few miles north of Mammoth Cave National Park. The large campground here can accommodate both RVs and car campers with a variety of campsites available. You’ll have great lake views and be able to enjoy swimming, mountain biking, and easy access to the surrounding area.

 

Free camping near Mammoth Cave

Your final option for camping near Mammoth Cave National Park is to try and find a free campsite in the surrounding area. While certainly not as easy in this part of the country when compared to the abundant free camping available in the western US, you’ll have at least one good option.

Located approximately 30 minutes from Mammoth Cave, Thelma Stovall Park in Munfordville, KY generally allows free camping for a few nights. While not officially listed on the City’s website, there are numerous reports on FreeCampsites.net that camping is permitted here at no cost.

We recommend inquiring with the City prior to camping here.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Mammoth Cave National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!