Taking a road trip from Chicago to Mammoth Cave National Park is an easy day's drive south from Chicago, IL, and through the adjoining states of Indiana and Kentucky. Your beginning destination city of Chicago is an exciting adventure at any time of the year, and there's much to see and do along this route in the Midwestern U.S., both in natural and historical terms. Mammoth Cave National Park contains the largest known cave system in the world and is a wonderful place to visit when you arrive at the end of your Chicago to Mammoth Cave National Park RV road trip.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park offers a diverse habitat that includes sand dunes, prairie grasses, lupine wildflowers, marshes, forests, meadows, and 15 miles of the shores of Lake Michigan. There are 1,100 cataloged native plant species inside the park, making Indiana Dunes National Park the fourth-most diverse plant ecosystem in the national park system. Many of the sand dunes reach 200 feet in height and rank among the highest lakeshore dunes in the world. You can hike on more than 50 miles of boardwalks and natural pathways that crisscross the park, and other activities include fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-fishing. There are over 60 historic structures inside the park, including the Bailly Homestead, a National Historic Landmark. Other sites include the Chellberg Farm, Camp Good Fellow, and five houses that were built as exhibits for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
The name Cumberland Gap is evocative of the exploration of the U.S. by pioneers like Daniel Boone, Dr. Thomas Walker, Christopher Gist, and James Harrod. This natural passageway located in what is now Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia was used by many indigenous peoples beginning with the Paleo-Indian peoples and continuing with the Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Cherokee tribes that lived in the region during the colonial era of North America. Daniel Boone famously carved a wider path through the gap in 1775, enabling people to more easily pass through the Appalachian Mountains and into the west. Visitors to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park can tour the Hensley Settlement and experience the mountain life of the 20th century, explore Gap Cave, walk on the Wilderness Trail, view Appalachian art at the Visitor Center, and hike on one of the more than 70 miles of trails.
Wolf Creek State Park
Wolf Creek State Park is located on the shores of Lake Shelbyville, in conjunction with Eagle Creek State Recreation Area. The entire area covers 250 miles of shoreline on Lake Shelbyville. The boat launch offers plenty of access to the water, with four lanes and amenities like beach changing rooms, a playground, and multiple restrooms to ensure a nice refresh for everyone during your Chicago to Mammoth Cave National Park road trip. There are also hiking and equestrian trails and a snowmobile route.
Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen State Park is only a few miles from Chicago but seems like a world apart. Here, visitors find a quiet and peaceful rest from urban life. The park is full of unique rock formations, and it contains a wide variety of plants and animal species. The miles of trails inside the park travel through prairies, woods, creeks, and canyons. The Interior Canyon Trail is a popular hike that includes stepping rocks, stairs, and bench-cut sections and culminates at the top of the Upper Dell.
Taylorsville Lake State Park
Taylorsville Lake State Park is known for its excellent fishing for bluegill, bass, and crappie, but many also come to hike, bike, and ride horses along the 16-mile multi-use trail system. The marina has four launching ramps, covered and open boat slips, fuel, fishing equipment, and boat rentals. There's even an RV campsite that includes 10 sites that are reserved for horse camping.
Kentucky Horse Park
The Kentucky Horse Park is the place to go to learn about the rich history of horse racing in both the U.S. and the world. The park serves to not only educate, but it's also a working horse farm and venue for competitions. The Horses of the World show is a twice-daily event with horses from around the world that are ridden in their national costumes, and there are other entertaining events that take place during the year. There are also riding tours of the park available. The International Museum of the Horse is a Smithsonian Affiliate and contains a permanent exhibit and several rotating displays. The grave of the famous racehorse Man o' War is in the park as well.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden opened in 1873 and is the sixth-oldest zoo in the U.S. The original zoo was 64 acres and was located in the center of the city, but it has now expanded into surrounding streets and separate reserves in numerous locations in the suburbs of Cincinnati. The zoo was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987, and it was the home of the last passenger pigeon and the last Carolina parakeet. Today, the zoo contains more than 500 animals and 3,000 species of plants and is consistently ranked among the best zoos in the U.S. The zoo provides entertainment for visitors and also serves as an animal research and preservation entity. The Cincinnati Zoo was the first such program to successfully breed California sea lions, and in 1986, the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife was created to promote conservation.
Daniel Boone National Forest
A remarkable wilderness adventure awaits you in Daniel Boone National Forest where you'll experience an authentically pristine and rugged natural part of the Appalachian Mountains. This forest has 708 acres of sandstone cliffs, woods, ravines, mountains, and watersheds and is spread throughout 21 counties. Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake, and Lake Cumberland are also located in the national forest. Visitors can undertake activities like rock climbing, fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, target shooting, and horse riding when they add this forest to their Chicago to Mammoth Cave National Park road trip itinerary.
Indianapolis is the capital and largest city of Indiana. While visiting the city, you can take the time to stroll around White River State Park, which has 250 acres inside the city. The Canal Walk loops around the waterfront for three miles, and the Indianapolis Zoo has a botanical garden and an aquarium in conjunction with the animal exhibits. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is a fun and entertaining attraction that has a huge collection of racing cars and memorabilia. There are numerous dump station facilities in the local area for your convenience. Caboose Lake Campground is near Indianapolis and is located on 20 acres of land with plenty of trees and shade, and there's also a spring-fed pond.
Lafayette is the county seat of Tippecanoe County, IN, and it was named for the U.S. revolutionary war hero from France, the Marquis de Lafayette. It's located 125 miles south of Chicago and 60 miles north of Indianapolis and is on the Wabash River. It's the home of Purdue University and is also the site for many historical attractions. The Alexandre Mouton House, also known as the Lafayette Museum, has a fine collection of 1800s-period furnishings, and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum features folk art, works from Henry Botkin, and a collection of Japanese prints. Dump stations are easy to find if you need one. Renfro Valley KOA is a nice campground that has all the expected KOA amenities, and it's located near Daniel Boone National Forest.
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, and it's located on the Ohio River on the state border of Kentucky and Ohio. This city is home to the Kentucky Derby horse racing event that takes place every year on Churchill Downs. Throughout the year, visitors to Churchill Downs can tour the Kentucky Derby Museum. Other places of interest include the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory where Major League bats are made. If you need a dump station for your RV while on your road trip from Chicago to Mammoth Cave National Park, then you can find several options. Louisville South KOA Holiday is located just south of Louisville and is a large RV park with many kid-friendly activities.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Chicago to Mammoth Cave National Park, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Chicago or Mammoth Cave National Park.