Caves Free activities

Mammoth Cave Utah

Mammoth Cave

We love caving and so it was about time that we visited Mammoth Cave in southern Utah. This cave system is actually a lava tube, and it is fun and easy to explore.

 

The tubes have three entrances and four large tunnels. Adjacent to the parking lot, you’ll find a small entrance and a much larger entrance. We started with the small entrance. It is an easy climb down into the tunnels for most adults, but kids will need a hand. Also, make sure you have plenty of light, because these caves are dark!

Mammoth Cave 1

This is the small entrance closest to the parking lot.

The first tube from the small entrance runs adjacent to the parking lot. It narrows down pretty quickly, and the ground is somewhat moist, so you can squat (rather uncomfortably) or kneel for around 40 yards up the passage. It narrows down even further, but we weren’t willing to belly crawl to see how far it actually goes, particularly with several other tubes to explore.

Mammoth Cave 2

Even our little kids were crouching down. The first cave is small and quick to explore.

Next, we entered the larger opening and went in the exact opposite direction from the parking lot. Technically, these two openings are connected, and you could skirt around to this hole on a narrow ledge, but it didn’t seem like a good idea with the kids. This tunnel runs for closer to 75 yards and narrows down as well. However, if you’re a bit of a contortionist, you can slide along the rocks (many adventurers before you have worn them down smooth) and you won’t get too cramped or muddy. This tube leads to the third opening, which is connected by a trail about 75 yards from the parking lot.

Mammoth Cave 3

This is the large opening. We walked around and headed left first.

Mammoth Cave 4

It starts out open and light, but narrows quickly.

Mammoth Cave 5

Soon you are crawling and you will squeeze through to exit this tube.

Mammoth Cave 6

I was super dirty after crawling through, but I felt very accomplished.

This is the 3rd opening, but we only used it for an exit after crawling out of the first tube we explored from the large entrance.

This is the 3rd opening, but we only used it for an exit after crawling out of the first tube we explored from the large entrance.

Down the large main entrance, you’ll find two more tubes. One leads away from the parking lot and gets muddy and tight fast. It doesn’t seem to go far, maybe only 25 yards before it gets nasty. The second tube is gated, and it is by far the best tube at Mammoth Cave.

Mammoth Cave 8

If you head right from the big entrance you will come this way. To the right of our family in this picture is a small tube that doesn’t go anywhere, and to the left is the gate to the large tube.

The reason for the gate is that bats hibernate in this section of the cave. The forest service locks the gate during hibernation season (October to April) so you can’t disturb the hibernating bats. During the rest of the year, there is a small opening at the bottom of the grate that will allow you climb through. This cave is very open and wide, and there was no chance of bumping your head. However, the floor is littered with rocks, and the farther you go, the wetter and stickier the mud gets. By the end, it is a mucky mess!

Mammoth Cave 9

We squeezed through the opening into the cave.

Mammoth Cave 12

This tube is tall and open the entire time.

Mammoth Cave 11

We spotted this cave cricket. It was the only sign of life that we saw.

Mammoth Cave 10

We love exploring caves and Mammoth Cave was a great adventure.

We clocked the distance to the end of this tube, and astonishingly, it runs a fifth of a mile. That’s about 350 yards underground! Kids will need a hand in this tube, and everyone should come prepared with a headlamp or flashlight. A lantern in the hand of a leader won’t do because you won’t be able to see all the rocks and debris that litter the floor.

 

Mammoth Cave is our new favorite cave in Utah. It can be a bit difficult to find, though, so we’ve written careful instructions. Be sure to print them out as you likely won’t have service on the road. Also, there is a key sign missing along the route, so watch your mileage.

Directions:

From the US-89 in Hatch, take Fish Hatchery Road west. There is a sign for Fish Hatchery Road. Follow this road for 10 miles. The first 5 miles are paved, and the last 5 miles are dirt. You will come to a T. Head left onto FH050. Follow this road for about 1/2 mile and then take a left onto a dirt road. There is no sign. We accidentally went past this turn off and had to turn around. When we did, we saw a sign that said Mammoth Cave on the way back, but coming from Hatch you will not see a sign.

After you make the turn onto the dirt road, follow the road for 1.2 miles and then turn left. There is a sign for Mammoth Cave here, so you will know you are on the right path. Then follow the new road for 0.6 miles and go right. This road will take you to Mammoth Cave in 0.3 miles.