Head down the trail from Mammoth Cave Hotel in Mammoth Cave National Park and you’ll be at the historic entrance of one of the natural wonders of the world. With its 400 explored miles, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave system. Mammoth Cave Hotel, with its touches of southern hospitality and easy-going service, follows a long tradition of serving travelers of all ages who have come to this place in southwestern Kentucky looking for a taste of adventure underground.
The framed black and white historic photographs and the roadside sign in the hotel’s Travertine Restaurant (where we ate dinner) tell a history of the hotel’s gentility and tourism. The original Mammoth Cave Hotel was built in the 1800s but, unfortunately, caught on fire in 1919 and burned to the ground. The current hotel, across a walking bridge at the back of the Mammoth Cave Visitors Center, offers three lodging options.
We stayed in one of the 20 rooms of Sunset Terrace, two long one-story buildings with the woods as a backdrop where each room includes chairs for sitting outside. In the evening, deer roam through the grassy area that separates Sunset Terrace from the main hotel parking lot. Our room of two queen beds was a tidy, comfortable trip back in time when soft green colors reflected the nuances of the outdoors. The cable TV, refrigerator and coffee maker are modern additions. Although Sunset Terrace does not have a WiFi connection, the main hotel does.
The main building includes the Heritage Rooms where each of the two double bed rooms has a balcony or patio that faces the parking lot or overlooks the Heritage Trail that leads down to Mammoth Cave’s historic entrance.
For an overnight with a rustic, but also comfortable feel, stay in one of the 10 historic or 20 Woodland cottages. These cottages are situated in lovely groves of hardwood trees close to the other buildings. The cottages can accommodate 2 to 16 people depending upon the number of bedrooms.
The main building of Mammoth Cave is a busy place. A gift shop of Kentucky made arts and crafts and another one focused on Mammoth Cave memorabilia, bring in day guests as well as overnighters and those staying at Mammoth Cave National Park’s campground. Plus, there are two other dining options along with the Travertine Restaurant that are open to anyone looking for home-style cooking.
We ate lunch after we arrived at the Crystal Lake Coffee Shop, a smaller restaurant that serves breakfast and lunchtime fare. If you want a southern-style Kentucky favorite, order a bowl of soup beans that comes with cornbread. For a quick bite, head to Troglobites, a fast-food style restaurant with hamburgers and fries as the specialty.
As a note, Mammoth Cave Hotel dials back its offerings after September 30. Although it’s a year-round hotel, the number of available rooms scale back. March 1st, the hotel is in full swing again.
As far as visiting the cave goes, no matter when you head down underground, the temperature stays in the mid-50s. Plan ahead for tours. Some are sold out in advance. We took the Historic Tour, one I highly recommend.
The Mammoth Cave Hotel is a Forever Resorts Property. You can make reservations online or by calling 877/386-4383. I had to change my reservation from a date in June to one in July and was able to do so without any trouble. Also, at the time we stayed, our rate was cheaper so we did get a small refund upon checkout.
Room rates vary according to the season. The range is currently $105 to $113. Woodland Cottages are $71. Payment is upon reservation, but if you cancel within a certain time frame you do get a refund.
Post and all photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein. Photo of cottage, courtesy of Mammoth Cave Hotel.