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Bring Your Paddle for Kentucky’s Outdoors

Whether under the ground creeping along a cave wall or above a gorge zipping over trees, groups will find awe-inspiring outdoor adventures in Kentucky. The state’s diverse environments and abundant resources have led to a wide range of outdoor activities for ambitious thrill-seekers and quiet nature lovers alike.

Mammoth Cave National Park is the state’s crowning jewel, boasting the longest cave system in the world. Even though more than 365 miles of the five-level cave system is mapped, explorers continue to locate new caves.

The adventures continue aboveground with horseback rides, elk viewing and zip lining through a rocky gorge. The state also has 1,900 miles of designated navigable waterways, the most for any state in the continental U.S.

Groups with a variety of ages and activity levels can find outdoor activities to fit their needs in the Bluegrass State.

Caving in Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

Holding lanterns in their hands, travelers at Mammoth Cave feel enveloped in a limestone labyrinth and transported to another time. The nostalgic Violet City Lantern Tour and Star Chamber experiences both offer lantern-lit tours with tales of the cave’s earliest explorers.

The rugged Violet City Lantern Tour navigates steep hills through some of the cave’s most massive and oldest passageways. The milder Star Chamber offers two miles by flickering flame past cavern dwellings once used to house tuberculosis patients.

Groups can find everything from wheelchair-accessible tours to the belly-crawling Wild Cave Tour. The two-hour Domes and Dripstones, the most popular tour, showcases some of the most dramatic cave features. The shorter Frozen Niagara Tour touches on some of the same features but lasts only a little over an hour.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cave is “grand, gloomy and peculiar,” as it was described by Stephen Bishop in the early 1800s. Most tours set aside a time to switch off all the lights to demonstrate the utter darkness of the cave. With the lights off, visitors can’t even see their own noses.

The park accommodates all sizes of groups, including ones with some members who don’t wish to travel underground. Forested hills and hollows encompass more than 52,000 acres for guests to explore on the surface.

“Mammoth Cave is a great gathering spot for groups,” said Molly Schroer, management assistant at the Mammoth Cave National Park. “There are a lot of activities to do underground and aboveground. We have many hiking trails, canoe rentals, a horse rental operation and bike trails. We also have a lodge here, so you can also easily eat nearby and spend the night.”