Tuesday, August 19, 2014


For us Michiganders, Kentucky is actually a relatively short drive away. Here is a Kentucky trip planner post for Mammoth Caves National Park and Red River Gorge Geological Area.

Mammoth Cave Waterproof, Tear-Resistant, Topographic Map - This is a very nice National Geographic map showing contours, trails, campsites and more. A must have! Thanks Jacob for sending us this map and so fast! It helped with planning, and will be awesome in the backcountry. :)
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave Maps
Cave Tour Schedule and Booking
Helpful Folks @ Mammoth Cave

If you plan on doing a cave tour you should book early. I waited too long to book a trip and missed out on a tour I wanted to do. We are going to do the Violet City and Domes and Dripstones tours which l am excited for. The park seems to be dog friendly and even has 10 kennels available at the onsite hotel for your dog to wait while you are touring the cave.

(Post Trip Notes: Kennels were very accommodating, there was a little shelter for the pups to go in if they wanted and you are able to padlock the gate while you're gone. The cave tours were amazing! The first tour was 3 miles, 3.5 hours. It was nostalgic and lit by 10 oil lamps our group of 40 carried. Our Guide's Grandfather (Wood) used to be a tour guide here also. We learned about salt/peter mining, geology, historical sites such as the church and hospital and saw multiple cave rooms. It was hard to see but you could really appreciate the darkness and what what the first visitors would have experienced. The second tour was totally different and a nice contrast to the first tour. This tour was 3/4 mile 2 hours. You follow a steep staircase down and travel in sort of an L pattern. The entire thing is lit up and we travelled with a group of 120. It was nice being able to see the rock formations especially at the end where the dripstones were. We even saw bats! )

Campsites are first come first serve, so it's a little hard to pre-plan the exact itinerary. We typically like to do multiple nights in the backcountry so we will try to string a couple sites together once we arrive.

(Post Trip Notes: Even if you don't see bugs flying around, wear long pants and deet up, or visit during the winter months. We didn't realize it was happening at the time, but we got DESTROYED by chiggers and ticks in Mammoth's backcountry. Chigger bites seriously itch for 5+ weeks. :(

It rained a lot the day we arrived and the visitor center folks steered us away from the sites we wanted to stay at due to flooding. They suggested Sal Hollow (Nathan likes to call it Shallow Hal) and Turnhole Bend. Both places looked great in the picture book they showed us and both were water accessible (so they say). Long story short, you cannot get to water from either of these two sites! Personally I would say skip backcountry camping at Mammoth... do some cave tours and get out of there. Head to the Red River Gorge Geological area.)

Red River Gorge Geological Area

(Post Trip Notes: Upon arrival at the Red River Gorge Geological Area, we went to the visitor center and managed to slip in just before closing time. We purchased a glossy topo map of the area for a just a few dollars. If you can stop into the Visitor Center, purchase this map. I was unable to find it online, but the ISBN is 978159351669-7.)
Red River Gorge Topographic Map with Campsites - I highly recommend this map. It comes as a package of 4 maps depicting trails, campsites, mileage, views and much more. I was not able to find campsites anywhere online, so I say it is a must have. It is a nice thick glossy paper, and folds up to a small size. Jacob, Thank you again for sending us your maps!

The Red River Gorge Geological Area looks amazing! I'm very excited to hike, camp, and view the arches in the area. The Red River Gorge Area is also dog friendly. Just remember to pick up any food or waste to keep disease from spreading through the park. We plan to split our stay here into 3 round trips.
  • Hike Auxillary Ridge Loop
  • Power Loop
  • Swift Camp Creek Trail

----------KML/GPS File & Interactive Map Section----------
Here are the routes and waypoints I entered into our GPS. If you want to create your own file to upload to your GPS follow these steps.
  1. Get a .jpeg image or screenshot or the map you want to use. If you map is very large, take a look at this post about 1024 pixel images.
  2. Add an image overlay in Google Earth. (Steps 1-4 in this link).
  3. Trace the trails and add campsites, placemarks, etc. It should look like this.
  4. Organize your routes, waypoints, images into a folder under My Places in Google Earth.
  5. Export a KML file from Google Earth with Right Click on Folder you made > Save Place As > Save as KML file to a location on your computer.
  6. Convert the KML file to a GPX file. I used a free online converter.
  7. Connect your GPS and drag the GPX file to your device. On my Garmin Oregon 400, it goes in a folder call GPX. Note: You may need to tinker with the settings on your GPS to get the routes and points to show up. On the Oregon 400 you have to go into Track Manager and set each route to "show on map".

To get the map in Google Maps, I just uploaded it as a KML file. You can download the file by navigating to the map, clicking on the folder icon under the title, and selecting Download KML. You can open the file in Google Earth and make modifications or go right to step 6.

These maps do not depict every trail, campsite etc. I used them for my own trip planning but thought I would share them.