An Exhilarating RV Excursion in Kentucky

Tour of Mammoth Cave

Tour of Mammoth Cave

Looking to squeeze a lifetime of Americana, culture, and fun into one week? South-central Kentucky boasts more enviable destinations than most comparable geographic areas in the country. From underground rivers to Civil War battlefields, waterfalls to America’s most iconic automobile, Kentucky offers enough attractions to fill months of travel (or, just relax by a sprawling lake in the rolling hills).

Anchored by the City of Bowling Green and Mammoth Cave National Park, the south-central region has long drawn vacationers who marvel at the state’s most famous natural wonder (after the horses, of course!). But many continue on their way, before getting a chance, to fully experience this rich region.

Each of the stops on this perfect Kentucky itinerary are destinations themselves — don’t hesitate to spend a few days at any one stop. Or, squeeze all of these into a week. Either way, you’ll be amazed at what the bluegrass state has to offer!

If you’re motoring in from the north, east, or south, make your first stop Cumberland Falls State Park. Just a stone’s throw off of I-75, but tucked into the vast wilderness of Daniel Boone State Forest, the falls stretch 125 feet wide and drop 68 vertical feet — they’re easily the largest in Kentucky. Cumberland Falls is most notable, however, for being one of the only places in the world to see a “moonbow,” a rainbow phenomenon that occurs at night when moonlight refracts off of the waterfall’s mist.

The cool, crisp air of late fall is the best time to witness the moonbow phenomenon. Plan your trip around a full moon and enjoy it for nights on end!

In close vicinity to the falls, Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park is both a great place to camp (full hook-ups) and worth a visit itself. Highlights of the 1300-acre park include McHargue’s Mill, a working reproduction of a settlement-era grinding mill, and the seven-building Mountain Life Museum, full of relics from the pioneering days when Kentucky was still the ‘wild west.’

Heading west, just over an hour away is the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. The park is a place for quiet reflection — it’s the site of the bloodiest Civil War battle in the state. 7,600 men were wounded or killed in October 1862 (If you can, visit for the annual reenactments). Perryville was the Confederacy’s failed last attempt to take control of Kentucky, and is one of the least-altered battlefields in the nation, offering nearly the same view that soldiers saw when marching onto the field 150 years ago.

Just down the road is a site worthy of quick stopover — the Georgian mansion where the famous American songwriter Stephen Foster penned “My Old Kentucky Home.” Whistle the state song while touring the home and formal gardens at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, which also features a 39-site campground.

It’s time for an obvious highlight of the trip — Mammoth Cave National Park. Consider two days here; one to explore the subterranean wonderland, and one to enjoy the above-ground world away from the crowds. The 6.6-mile out-and-back Turnhole Bend Trail is a favorite of hiking buffs, passing over serene, isolated bluffs and through Kentucky’s last remaining old-growths forests.

When you’re ready to put Mammoth in your rearview, scoot on down to Bowling Green. If you’ve still got the urge to spelunk, Lost River Cave offers an experience unlike any other you’ll find; a cave tour by boat! The sensation of floating down an underground river is a family adventure not to be missed.

After your watery tour, stop into the National Corvette Museum and watch dad drool over the factory where every Corvette is made. Finish this well-rounded day at Bowling Green’s iconic Great American Donut Shop, where you’ll find locals ready to tout their hometown favorite guilty-pleasure ahead of any national chain’s offerings.

For RVers needing to restock, the country’s first Camping World is in Bowling Green. Stop by and pay homage to the best way to travel and see the country, and pick up a few supplies.

Back on the road, return east to finish your south-central Kentucky circuit at one of two gorgeous lakes in the midlands. Green River Lake’s rock shoals feature 1,331 acres of remote public land along Green River Lake State Park, and plenty of room to explore one of the state’s prettiest places, with a full-service 157-site campground. There’s a marina, mini golf, and 28 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Just to the south, the immense Lake Cumberland stretches out over 52,000 acres of water, with 1,225 miles of shoreline. Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is an RV campground on steroids, offering every amenity from rental fishing boats to disc golf to horseshoe riding. An entire week spent just at Lake Cumberland offers enough to entertain the family without end.

Across the entire state, Kentucky offers an endless bounty of history, nature, and family fun. Even in the 300-mile loop of the state’s mid-south described in this post, there are more attractions than room to write about!

Make Bowling Green the base for your next RV adventure, and see how far just a few miles can take you in Kentucky.

Picture credits: The picture of the Mammoth Cave Tour is by Daniel Schwen and is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Time for an RV Camping Trip to the International Bluegrass Music Museum

On the banks of the Ohio River in Kentucky, with its toes on the Indiana state line, stands a town steeped in bluegrass music history. Owensboro, KY is home to the International Bluegrass Music Museum, where legends of this uniquely American art form are celebrated every day. If combining memorable RV camping with your love of bluegrass sounds like a top ten vacation, it’s time for an RV camping trip to the International Bluegrass Music Museum.

Owensboro is the perfect spot for this museum which, incidentally, also houses the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Just down the road are the small towns where Bill Monroe lived and played his exciting new sounds while on the way to becoming the “Father of Bluegrass Music.”

Since the 1930s, when Monroe and his band The Blue Grass Boys, used mandolin, guitar, banjo and fiddle to craft a hauntingly honest blend of music, fans from around the world have recognized Kentucky as the home place of bluegrass. In 1985, the International Bluegrass Music Association was formed to preserve the heritage and art form of bluegrass music, with help from such music greats as Ricky Skaggs and Ralph Stanley.

The result of their efforts was the Museum and Hall of Fame, where exhibits, music camps, education programs and the annual “River of Music Party (ROMP)” share the birth and ongoing joy of bluegrass music with its fans.

Since you’ll be traveling to the epicenter of bluegrass music by RV, we thought we’d also share some suggestions for memorable RV camping. At Diamond Lake Resort in Owensboro, five lakes offer the chance to relax and fish after a day at the International Bluegrass Music Museum. Twenty minutes away in Boonville, Indiana you’ll enjoy Scales Lake Park, a county-run complex that includes a campground, swimming beach, waterpark and petting zoo.

While in the area, also plan to visit Rosine, KY, the birthplace of Bill Monroe. This unpretentious, unincorporated little town houses the graves of Bill Monroe and many members of his family.

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RV Road Trip to Mammoth Cave National Park

The scenic roads of southern Kentucky are an RV road trip destination in themselves. Mix in the wonders of Mammoth Cave National Park and you’ll score big points with RV travelers of any age. Less than two hours north of Nashville and three hours south of Indianapolis on I-65, Mammoth Cave is easy to find and even easier to enjoy.

Once you’ve made your way to the gates of this National Park, plan plenty of time to see everything it has to offer. Not simply the home of enormous underground caverns, Mammoth Cave National Park is a perfect snapshot of Kentucky’s natural beauty.

Mammoth Cave Tours
Let’s start our virtual tour with a visit to the caverns themselves. The National Park Service presents a rotating series of guided cave tours, depending on the season. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Frozen Niagara Tour: This quarter-mile tour enters the cave near an awesome travertine formation known as “Frozen Niagara.” You’ll also see the Crystal Lake, Rainbow Dome and Drapery Room formations on this short visit into the wonders of Mammoth Cave.
  • Grand Avenue Tour: Put on some comfortable walking shoes and plan to stay underground for nearly five hours on this spectacular tour to many of Mammoth Cave’s best sights. It’s a steep climb up and down, so families with small children will want to pick a different tour.
  • Historic Tour: Hearty cave explorers will want to take this two-mile walking tour past attractions such as Mammoth Dome, Broadway Avenue and the Bottomless Pit. This hike requires climbing more than four-hundred steps, and takes you into the lowest level of the caverns.
  • Violet City Lantern Tour: This three-mile, three-hour tour by lantern light will transport you back to the early days of the Cave’s exploration. No better way to get a feel for the enormity of Mammoth Cave and its significance in history.

There are also tours for the truly serious cave explorer and ways to glimpse some of the area’s underground wonders for persons with disabilities.

Mammoth Cave Area Attractions
In addition to spectacular sights below ground, Mammoth Cave National Park features numerous natural attractions to explore. The Green River cuts through the heart of the Park (consider taking the historic rural ferry ride) and provides plenty of sights worth hiking for. Of special interest: Green River Bluffs overlook, Cedar Sink and Sand Cave. More than two dozen trails reveal their secrets to hikers throughout the National Park.

RV Camping at Mammoth Cave National Park
The wooded hills within the National Park’s boundaries enhance your vacation experience by providing picturesque campgrounds. Motorhome campers will find campsites both rustic and well-equipped at Mammoth Cave National Park. Visit the Mammoth Cave National Park website for more information about campground reservations.

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