Family Trips to National Parks

Mammoth Cave National Park

270-758-2328

A whole secret world underneath the ground? Even today's kids, raised on Hollywood special effects, are awed by the longest recorded and mapped cave system in the world -- more than 350 miles. There's plenty to do topside, too, from canoeing on gentle rivers to hiking the bountiful trails.

Setting Up Camp

The park's single lodge, Mammoth Cave Hotel, fills up fast because it's just a stone's throw from the cave entrance, so make reservations as early as you can ($78 per night; 270-758-2225). The Headquarters Campground, one of three in the park, is popular with families because it's also close to the cave and has the most amenities, such as laundry and shower facilities, grills, and a store ($13 per night; 800-967-2283).

Ranger Activities

At just over an hour long, the Travertine tour ($7 adult; kids 6 to 12, $4) is recommended for preschoolers. Kids ages 8 to 12 who like getting dirty love the two-and-a-half-hour Trog tour ($8), in which they don hard hats and headlights and crawl with rangers into crannies of the cave that their parents never get to see. Cave tours fill up fast, especially during the peak summer months, so reserve spots for your family at least three weeks in advance. Ticket prices depend on the particular tours you choose but range from $3.50 to $35 per person (800-967-2283).

Danger Zone

There are no bathrooms in the caves. Make sure little ones go just before you leave on a tour -- or you'll both be very sorry!

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