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At the northern end of the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail is the impressive Mammoth Cave. With 390 miles of passages, it's the world's longest cave, more than double the length of its closest competitor. Named for its massive size (and not woolly mammoth fossils, which have not been found there), the cave is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the country.
The Mammoth Cave Railroad was privately owned by entrepreneurs who also owned lodging along the way. Its railroad ties were put in place during the summer of 1886 and, by that fall, two- and three-car trains were barreling down the corridor. Mail was also carried by the train, and the Chaumont Post Office was included among the many stops during the short, 25-minute journey between Park City and the cave.
Trains continued on the line for more than 40 years before service finally ended, largely pushed out by the rise of the automobile. In 1936, the rails were removed, but one of the last engines, dubbed Hercules for its pulling power, can still be seen today just south of the visitor center for Mammoth Cave National Park. Formally a streetcar, Hercules was converted for use on the narrow-gauge railroad and is shown pulling a train car in the line's hallmark red color.
Today, the pathway provides a scenic, wooded experience, but note that its loose gravel surface is best tackled with mountain bikes or hiking boots. And, unlike most rail-trails, which are relatively flat, this trail has a few hills. Along the route, there are three well-marked areas where the climb is so steep that it's recommended that cyclists dismount and walk up the hill.
The southern end of the trail lies on the outskirts of Park City (known as Glasgow Junction in the railroad's heyday), where you can explore the old stone structure of a stagecoach stop at Bell's Tavern, built in the early 1800s.
Parking is available at both ends of the trail and at several spots in between. The multiple access points/parking areas allow visitors to choose to ride/hike a section of the trail, or the entire length.
Most will want to begin their journey at the Mammoth Cave National Park Visitor Center (at 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway), where park maps, restrooms, water and snacks are available. The center is easily accessible from I-65 by taking either the KY 70 (Cave City) or KY 255 (Park City) exit.
I agree with the previous review about starting at the south end on Zion Cemetery Rd; however, be aware that there is only room for about 1 or 2 cars there (see photo). You can park just north of there on Mammoth Cave Pkwy, but only have about 5 spots there (see photo).
Nice wooded ride. Rode it on our hybrids with no problems. Several signs about the history of the railroad and the area. 2 or 3 steep hills….I got off and pushed. Bone shaking ride if you go down them fast. Trail definitely diverged from the old railroad grade 😀
Our original plan was to bike up the Visitor Center and take a cave tour, but read about boot wash when exiting the cave and didn’t want to bike in boots. Turns out the wash barely got the soles wet. Could have done the tour in sneakers. Saw folks doing it in flip-flops.
Grab your coat, hop on your bike, ride to a great cave tour. A unique Kentucky experience. Enjoy….bikin-mike…Aug 2022
This was a fun and challenging trail. If you want to begin with the more difficult ride, Park on Zion Cemetery Road and bike/hike north to the Mammoth Caves Visitor Center. This also gives you a great place to use the restroom and fill your water bottle. Get ready to walk your bike in 2-3 areas due to the steep incline. On the way there, we climbed just over 500’ total. The ride back was only 300’.
This is a challenging 18 mile round trip ride. At the Park City end, trail maintenance is non-existent. Loose dangerous gravel, (where there is gravel), and narrow. This trail is not good for youngsters or very novice riders.
this is my favorite kind of trail, being more of a road cyclist. not a super technical mtb challenge, just rolling hills, good compacted gravel surface, lots of trees... all kinds of birds on this trail. saw a gold finch, bluebirds, and one big turkey that took off in front of me on a straightaway and stayed on the path, airborne, leading the way for quite a bit. there was one small tree across the trail today, but it looked very recent and i didn’t need to dismount to go around. the trail does zig zag across the highway a few times, but you have unobstructed views upon approach and traffic was not heavy. there are easily visible caution posts at all these crossings, so nothing jumps up on you. great experience.
The trail is down hill one way and uphill coming back. Save energy for the ride home. Beautiful scenery and you get some level ground where there are traverses. And the campground is great!
Agree with previous reviews. Probably would have been better with mountain bike. Managed with hybrids. Beautiful and shaded. Rode from Zion Cemetery Rd to visitors center and return. Trail in great shape for most part, some loose gravel and sand made for moments of white knuckle ride.
Wonderful scenic trail. Agree that mountain bikes are best but we had hybrid tires and got along fine. Great experience and glad to add it to our list. A few steep climbs, but most of it is a moderate ride. I do think the trail could be marked better as there are lots of spurs. We had the trail map that kept is on the main route.
Mammoth Cave R.R. Trail:
This trail is 80 percent under a tall tree canopy. Nice and shaded. There was a light rain most of the day. A constant misting. The canopy kept us pretty dry. That same canopy will be very welcome during the hot summer months. The gravel trail width varies from 5’ to 10’. Most areas it is 6’ to 8’ wide. Branches encroach the width every so often and necessitate single file riding. The gravel was very small, similar to d.g.a. (dense gravel aggregate), nicely compacted. Not many washouts and not many sections of loose gravel. The rather small blue background distance markers need new white paint. Branches should also be cut back to improve visibility of these signs. We cycled this trail in mid May and the maintenance crews had probably not cut anything back yet. There are not many mileage markers going the other direction, toward the visitor center. Need to also spray some weed killer at the Southern end. I rated this trail a four because there are no r.r. trestles / bridges nor great vistas. The beautiful hardwood canopy is very pleasant. The trail has minor grades except for at least one of the three marked hills. Most will simply walk their bike the top portion of that grade. It is a great one day ride. There are no available shuttles. If you can’t physically ride the full 20 miles, you can park in one of a couple small parking lots between the two ends of the trail. Head in either direction and bike back to get a few miles in. If you still have the energy and are so inclined, head the other direction and back to complete the entire 20 miles (9-10 miles each way). Some in you party may pass on the entire and bug out after doing the half route.
Big Hollow Trail:
Never got to this one. You must take a ferry across the Green River. This is a steel cable, tethered, single auto at a tim, ferry. The lines were only four cars deep each side, but it would have probably taken 30-40 minutes each direction. We were short on time and took a pass. We contemplated biking across on the next ferry but were informed of the 3 mile long, steep grade, just West of the river, to get to the trail head. One in our party, who had been nursing a cramp, quickly nixed that idea.
Rode most of the trail yesterday. It's still a bit stark since the leaves haven't popped yet. Nice trail but much of it is parallel to the main road and not much into the wilderness.
Great trail, will go back soon
Starting at the south end near Park City, the trial is a long, fairly steep climb for most of the first 2-3 miles. From that point on north, the trail is level or gentle grades and only got off and walked once. The trail surface is a fine crushed stoned, 4-5 feet wide, and full of curves. Since most of the trail is in the trees, there is an abundance of sticks and leaves covering the crushed stone. Mountain bike tires work great but hybrid should be ok. This trial has great views and provides a good workout. The return ride is thrilling at the south end when you decend that steep 2-3 mile section at break-neck speed and work your way through the curves on the semi-loose stone.
We started this trail at Mammoth Cave. The trail is a gravel bed and hilly. There are two areas on this trail where the posted map indicates you should walk the bike. I suggest trying this trail with multi-surfaced tires.
Trail is a good work out for any age group, might be a little bit of a challenge, for the little ones.. we rode 17 mi in about 2.75 hrs.. had a blast, this is our first time to ride a trail of this type, and were very impressed. Will be coming back in the fall when the leaves change.. The camp ground looked very hospitable and is right on the trail. Cabins and park resort are within sight of the trail. Done one of the cave tours last year, it is a incredible thing to see.. Park rangers and staff have that always enjoyable southern hospitality.
We took our Tandem Two's Day on the trail a few days ago to break up the annual Thanksgiving road trip and found that the surface worked for us. We have wide tires, but they are smooth - not mountain bike tires. We aren't particularly experienced with the tandem (only around 400 miles so far), and I had to use great care (and a lot of braking) going down the hills. There were also a few places we had to walk the bike up as well. Still, it was a fun and challenging way to get into the park. This time of year the trail (fine, packed gravel except for a couple of spots) is half leaf-covered, adding to the excitement. Definitely not appropriate for inexperienced bikers, anything with narrow tires, or small children. For others, it is a great workout!
Nice trail for the family,though some parts may be a little steep for kids. They've pulled up the loose gravel and laid down some that is much better. Mountain bike tires are still a must, anything less will slow you down or force you to work hard on your drifting skills. Very scenic, just an all around beautiful ride. Take your time and enjoy the view. Well done Park City, Mammoth cave NP, and all involved.
Adults can ride the trail, but the youngest of children will have problems. Not only did our child crash on the loose gravel, but it made it quite hard for her to just climb hills. We saw other kids crashing.
The choice of loose gravel was poor. Crushed limestone or similar would have been a far better choice.
We ended our ride early and chose to hike the trails, which were beautiful.
This trail more suited to the wide tired mountain bike riders. It is a beautiful trail ride and is challenging for the older riders (we are in our mid 60’s). We ride hybrid/comfort bikes and you have to watch out for loose gravel. The trail has more hills than most rails to trail trails. Overall it is a beautiful, challenging ride.
While at Mammoth Cave be sure to take the "Historical", "Snowball", and "New Entrance" tours of Mammoth Cave. They are well worth your time and energy. Suggestion; don’t try biking the trail and then doing more than one of the cave tours in the same day. In fact, don’t try doing all three cave tours in the same day; they are too long and physically challenging. It is a beautiful place to ride your bike and splunk around in the caves.
The old Mammoth Cave RR was a short rail line designed to bring tourists from the main road (near present day I-65) to Mammoth Cave. The railroad is long gone but the National Park Service has turned the old RR bed into the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail. This trail follows most of the old RR line but not all of it. Part of the old RR bed is now under the main park entrance road to the trail deviates from that path. This makes part of the trail a lot more hilly than normal for a rail trail. Instructions on the sign post point out parts of the trail where you must dismount your bike and walk up (and down) the steepest parts. I did walk up a couple of parts but they were fairly short (a few hundred yards at most). You may be able to ride down these parts but only if you use your brakes to keep under control. The path gravel is loose enough that you can go too fast or you will find yourself in trouble.
The path is packed gravel. While fat tires are a must, this is not a mountain bike trail. I rode it on my hybrid/comfort bike.
I started at the trailhead near the park entrance sign. (I found out later that this was not the end of the trail but was very close. As you enter the park from I-65 you will see the parking on the left.). From the trailhead to Diamond Cave (a privately owned cave about a mile up the trail) the trail goes back into the woods and is somewhat hilly but not that bad. After Diamond Cave, you get to the steepest parts of the ride. It really isn't that bad if you take your time. There are signs on the trail warning of the steep sections.
The middle section of the trail basically follows the park's main entrance road but was mostly far enough back into the woods were the traffic was not dangerous or distracting. This section of the trail was the part that appeared to most closely follow the train route. It was flat and mostly straight. The bike trail crossed the road a couple of times so be careful there. At Sloan's crossing, there is a short nature trail around a pond.
Going north of Sloan Crossing Pond, the trail crosses a long curved trestle bridge. This appears to be a new bridge but a sign at one end says that there used to be an old RR trestle at that location. From here the trail continues north ending at the Camp Store near the park Visitor's Center. The only remaining Mammoth Cave Railroad engine and a passenger car are on display.
All in all, I liked this trail. It was a challenge at times since it was not as flat and straight as most rail trails but in was a nice trail through some very beautiful country.
This is a well maarked trail, How ever the gravel is more suited for wide tires. The park does not charge to park and ride. The cave tours are awesome. Good food at both the lodge and in Cave city. Wel worth the drive
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