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Mammoth Cave National Park, KY – Volunteer Vacations 2023

April 2 @ 6:00 pm - April 8 @ 10:00 am

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Join this project to support backcountry trail maintenance in Mammoth Cave National Park, and in your free time, explore the longest known cave system in the world! Mammoth Cave National Park is a park on two levels – 52,830 acres of reclaimed hardwood forest and winding riverways, and below it, the longest known cave system in the world, surveyed at 426 miles to date. Located within a day’s drive of major population centers, it offers camping, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, canoeing, picnicking, and cave tours. Mammoth Cave was established as a national park in 1941, later designated a World Heritage Site in 1981, and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990. The Biosphere Reserve area was increased from 112,830 acres to 909,328 in 1996. In 2021 the park was certified as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. The purpose of Mammoth Cave National Park is to preserve, protect, interpret, and study the internationally recognized biological and geologic features and processes associated with the longest known cave system in the world, the park’s diverse forested, karst landscape, the Green and Nolin rivers, and extensive evidence of human history; and to provide and promote public enjoyment, recreation, and understanding.

During this Volunteer Vacation, volunteers will assist Mammoth Cave National Park staff with backcountry trail maintenance along heavily used equestrian trails. Volunteers will drive 1 – 7 miles per day from their structured housing location to the trailhead and park for the day. They will then meet with park staff for a safety briefing, collect trail tools/supplies/equipment and then hike 2 – 5 miles per day with their tools, water, and lunch to the worksite. Volunteers will assist park staff with the installation and/or repair of trail features designed to improve water drainage; build/repair trail surfaces to improve trail safety for the public; reduce soil erosion that will protect nearby waterways that drain into the river or cave environment; and relocate sections of downed trees (working with NPS Certified Chainsaw Operator) and remove encroaching vegetation to widen the trail corridor.

Volunteers will hike from the trailhead to the worksite and back out. Volunteers should expect to hike up to 2-5 miles daily. Volunteers must be able to carry their work tools/equipment (provided by the park) and enough personal food and water for the day. The trail surface on each trail is severely degraded from excessive traffic. Volunteers must be capable of navigating through uneven terrain where downed trees (will be cut and sections relocated) may be present across the trails. Volunteers will be exposed to unearthed rocks, mud, encroaching vegetation (thorned brush/shrubs, tree limbs, and poison ivy), prominent tick population, venomous snakes, and stinging insects.

Volunteers will drive back and forth on paved roadway from the Maple Springs Housing Facility to the trailhead daily. Maple Springs Trailhead (0.7 miles from housing) or Lincoln Trailhead (~6.5 miles from housing) to park and meet the project supervisor. Distance from housing to the trailhead will vary depending on the amount of work done the previous day. Once work has reached the midpoint of the trail, volunteers will park at the opposite end of the trail and hike in to commence work at the midpoint and hike back out to the vehicles daily.

There is no experience needed to join a Volunteer Vacation! Your expert hosts will provide detailed instruction, tool demonstrations, and project oversight throughout the week. All you need is a willing attitude and to be in good physical condition to participate in moderate physical activity for approximately 6-8 hours a day with plenty of breaks, at your own pace. Find out more about what it’s like to join a Volunteer Vacation and other frequently asked questions here.

AHS acknowledges with gratitude that this project takes place on the traditional lands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), S’atsoyaha (Yuchi) and Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee) peoples past and present. We honor the land itself, the Indigenous communities who have stewarded this land for generations, their deep and sacred connection to these lands, and those who continue to steward these lands today. We offer this land acknowledgement as the first of many steps to stand as an ally and amplify Indigenous voices. We invite the American Hiking Society community to join us through continued efforts to support Indigenous communities and learn more about the history of the lands on which we live, work and recreate.

Host

National Park Service

Accommodations

Dormitory/Bunkhouse

Hiking/Access

Day hiking up to 5 miles each work day.

Project Rating

Strenuous

Minimum Volunteer Age

18

Maximum Group Size

10

Area and Attractions

Mammoth Cave National Park in west-central Kentucky encompasses portions of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world. The park's 52,830 acres with 85 miles of surface trails located primarily in Edmonson County, with small areas extending eastward into Hart and Barren counties. The Green River runs through the park, with a tributary called the Nolin River feeding into the Green just inside the park providing 30 miles of winding waterways. Mammoth Cave is the world's longest known cave system with more than 420 miles of surveyed passageways. Mammoth Cave National Park lies halfway between two major metropolitan cities Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky (approximately 100 miles from each city). Local communities have restaurants available for dining opportunities, with diverse and international cuisine options. There are multiple recreational opportunities in the local communities and bigger cities as well that include: hiking, boating, paddling, swimming, zip-lining, caving, biking, horseback riding and bowling. Additionally, there are several museums in nearby communities to enjoy.

Accommodations Description

Volunteers will stay at the Maple Springs bunkhouse which has 3 main spaces set up as bedrooms with a total of 17 twin beds, most of which have metal wardrobes for private storage. Two separate bathrooms with showers are connected to the outside portion of the house. The cooking and dining area for bunkhouses located in the nearby renovated garage that is set up as a kitchen and classroom, with picnic tables outside. The kitchen/classroom has all major appliances, including 2 refrigerators and 2 stoves. There are no laundry facilities at the bunkhouse. Volunteers need to bring their own linens (sheets/bedding or sleeping bags), personal toiletries and towels. Please contact volunteer@americanhiking.org for assistance with gear needs.

Travel

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) in Louisville, KY is the closest major airport. Airport pick up and drop off is available for volunteers and will be arranged upon confirmation of the trip.

Location

Mammoth Cave National Park
Maple Springs Housing Facility, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259 United States + Google Map
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