Mountain Biking Kentucky’s Big Hollow Trail

Big Hollow is part of Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world. The area is well known for its unparalleled underground beauty, but this trail shows that there is plenty to see and do above ground as well. 


In 2010, Southwest KyMBA (Kentucky Mountain Bike Association), an IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) Chapter, and the national park service entered into an agreement to increase off-road biking opportunities and spur volunteerism. The result is the Big Hollow Trail, a super fun ride for everyone. Let’s hope this test case is a success and we start to see mountain biking trails in more national parks. The area is known for its natural beauty and nothing showcases that better than the Big Hollow Trail.


What Makes It Great


It’s rare that a trail can be everything to everyone. Experienced riders get bored on purely smooth routes, beginners are intimidated by harder trail obstacles. Big Hollow strikes a good balance, with a smooth and flowy main trail, and plenty of alternative lines for advanced riders to test their mettle on skinny log rides, tabletops, roll offs, and drops up to three feet high. It’s also meticulously maintained solely by Southwest KyMBA so conditions along the trail are well kept.


The ride rolls through green, picturesque hardwood forests and is shaded almost all of the way. It also winds its way around fascinating rock outcroppings and over numerous streams. The total elevation change for the whole ride is only 600 feet, so newer riders can concentrate on having fun and seeing what’s around the next bend, rather than worrying about struggling up steep hills. 


The South loop tackles slightly more challenging terrain, as it winds along the Green river. Be sure to keep an eye for the perfect lunch spot: an open limestone slab overlooking the valley. The area is also considered one of the best places in Kentucky to view fall colors. Words simply can’t describe the beauty of the exploding, vibrant colors. And as the leaves fall, the haunting, dramatic karst formations that the park’s caves are famous for are reluctantly revealed.


Who is Going to Love It


Visitors to national parks are an adventurous lot. They often like to get out of the car, hike, get dirty, and see things. The Big Hollow trail opens up a whole new way to enjoy one of America’s greatest treasures. Which was exactly the point. 


In 2014, Big Hollow was named Gateway Trail of the Year by the IMBA. Gateway trails cater more to beginning riders, yet offer alternative side lines for more advanced riders. Expertly designed for riders by riders, the trail is pure fun for any level. It’s a nice way to get some sun after being in the dark caves or even as a destination in itself.


The Maple Springs campground is right near the start and has a connector trail that takes riders right to the trail, making for a convenient weekend. The nearby Brier Creek Trail at Nolin Lake State Park is also a great trail in a beautiful park.


Directions, Parking & Regulations


The Maple Springs campground and trailhead are six miles from the visitor’s center and three miles north of the Green River Ferry. To avoid the ferry crossing (although fun in and of itself), come into the park from the north, off of the Mammoth Springs Ranger Station Rd., off of KY route 1827. 


If camping, firewood quarantines are in place.


Note that there is a 15mph speed limit on the trail.  




Difficulty: (2-5) The greatest feature of this trail is its flexibility. The main trail is mostly smooth, fast-rolling, and non-technical, rating a 2. Several alternative lines exist to make it harder.  


Time to Complete: (1-2 hours)


Distance: (Up to 12 miles) The entire ride consists of the Maple Springs Connector, North Loop, Connector Trail, and South Loop for a 12-mile round trip. If short on time, just stick to the North Loop, that’s only 5 miles. 


Seasonality: (All seasons) Spring is nice with wildflowers in bloom, summers and can be hot and humid, autumn brings cooler temps and epic fall colors. 


Fees: Free to enter the park, and for all surface activities. Fees are charged to camp or for cave tours.


Dog Friendly: (No)


GPS Coordinates: (Parking: 37°12'53.9"N 86°07'48.5"W)

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