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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.