Riding the Hilly Mammoth in Kentucky

This bike overnight takes a side trip off the TransAmerica Trail to visit Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park. 

When: April 2016

Bicycle Adventurer: Just me, Bob Kissinger!

Accomodations: Mammoth Cave Campground

Distance: Approximately 100 miles in two days.

Bonus tip for this adventure: 

  • Stay an extra day to tour the magnificent Mammoth Cave.
  • Ride the Green River ferry.

Note: Consult Adventure Cycling's TransAmerica Trail Section 10 for complete route details and services.

Adventure Cycling's TransAmerica Trail bicycle route includes the Mammoth Cave Loop, an option to take a side trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I followed this loop for a two-day bike tour, leaving Hodgenville, KY on a Saturday morning, riding 46 miles to Mammoth Cave Campground, and completing the loop on Sunday by riding 48 miles back to Hodgenville. 

Day One

I departed Hodgenville at 7:30 a.m. Light traffic and a cool, overcast morning made for a perfect ride to Cave City, KY, about nine miles shy of the park. 

The Kentucky countryside this time of year is simply gorgeous. The redbud is just past its peak, and the dogwood has started to bloom. The deciduous trees are just starting to fill out with new leaves and the local wildlife is waking up after the cold winter. I don’t know about you, but for me the sounds of robins and cardinals singing in the early morning let me know spring has finally arrived. 

Arriving at Cave City was like turning the clock back to the 1950s. Tourist attractions crowd the road on both sides.

You can stay overnight in an air-conditioned teepee. 

You can play putt-putt golf at Jellystone Park. 

You can shop for antiques and gem stones at stores that try to attract you with not-your-every-day yard decorations. 

And if you are really adventurous, you can sneak around in the woods to get a glimpse of some really big and ferocious Kentucky wildlife! 

Despite all of these attractions and distractions, I finally completed the last nine miles of the day and arrived at Mammoth Cave Campground, one of the best-maintained and clean campgrounds I have stayed at. I set up camp, took a shower, and got busy making dinner. Take a look: pad thai noodles with steamed broccoli, sautéed onions, and spicy peanut sauce. 

Throughout the afternoon and evening, there were many yellow and black striped butterflies flying around my campsite. I think they were eastern tiger swallowtails. 

As the sun set, I started a fire and enjoyed the last sunlight of the the day. 

Day Two

I got up before sunrise on Sunday, ate breakfast, packed my panniers, and set out for my return trip to Hodgenville. Just before leaving the park, I rode a small ferry across the Green River. 

In my four years riding my bike around the Kentucky countryside, there is one resident that I have seen almost every time — the turkey buzzard. Because there are so many deer and rodents killed by cars, the buzzards never go hungry. I spotted one eyeing me closely as I labored up a steep hill.

It is nice to know that there are other modes of transportation as slow and deliberate as riding a bike. There is a large Amish community in Munfordville, KY. This family was probably on their way to church. 

I made it safely back to my car in Hodgenville by 1:00 p.m. What a great weekend! Try a bike overnight. Who knows, you may like it so much, you'll start thinking about riding the entire TransAmerica Trail. That’s what happened to me!

Your favorite local bike shop? Scheller's Fitness & Cycling

Bike overnight tips and tricks? Cooking a really great meal from scratch is much easier than you think. I bought the cookbook Bike.Camp.Cook. by Tara Alan. Her recipes and cooking instructions are tailored to a small camp stove and limited cooking gear. Now I eat some of my best meals while camping and cooking on the road.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

1 response so far ↓

Terri - Jan 25, 2017 at 9:55 AM

Looks like fun, Bob. Thanks for sharing!

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