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Kentucky State Parks

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Carter Caves State Resort Park
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Carter Caves State Resort Park © JWorst / CC BY-ND 2.0
Carter Caves State Resort Park © JWorst / CC BY-ND 2.0
Carter Caves State Resort Park © JWorst / CC BY-ND 2.0
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344 Caveland Drive
Olive Hill, Kentucky   41164

Phone: 606-286-4411
Email: park email button icon
On July 31, 1946, the citizens of Carter and surrounding counties donated 945 acres to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for a state park. Contained in this tract are some of the most impressive caves in the state. Additional land has been obtained, making a total of some 2,000 acres. Carter and Cascade Caves are the best-known caverns in eastern Kentucky. Located in north-central Carter County, the Carter and Cascade Cave system is comprised of more than 20 caverns. Four of these caves are open for tours. Others are undeveloped or access is limited. Each cave has distinctive features reflecting geological forces.

Bat Cave is the largest cave in the park. It is open only in the summer and is the home of an estimated 40,000 Indiana bats called Myotis that hibernate there in the winter. These bats are protected by the Kentucky Parks System. The caves main passageway is a half-mile long and follows the course of Cave Branch. The ceiling of the passageway varies in height from about 35 feet at the downstream entrance to a claustrophobic 4 feet. Known as Backache Avenue, the low ceiling of the passageway extends 700 feet. This passage is wet and there are small pools of water throughout its length. During heavy rains the passage can be flooded by torrents of water.

Saltpetre Cave is a dry cave. No streams flow through these passages today. Evidence suggests that water did flow through the cave many years ago. The cave has long, broad, low-ceilings and dirt floors. The name of the cave comes from the old saltpeter works near the entrance that helped produce gunpowder during the War of 1812. Kentucky caverns had several saltpeter mines during the war. Nitrates for making gunpowder could be extracted from the earth in the caves. On the wall near the entrance is the legend, Simon Kenton 1783. Kenton, an early Kentucky pioneer, explored the area in the late eighteenth century. Saltpetre Cave is shown to visitors by guided tour.

The most popular cave for visitors in the Carter Cave system is X Cave, so-called f or the two intersecting caverns that from the letter X. Narrow and tall passageways permeate the X Cave. The walls of the cavern have been carved by water. X Cave is filled with beautiful and strange forms. Stalactites and stalagmites are found along the right passage of the cave. Columns, draperies, and flowstone created by centuries of water percolating through earth and stone, decorate portions of the cavern. Giant Stalactite is the largest dripstone formation in the cave. This formation of several stalactites is seven feet in diameter and about30 feet high. Another curiosity is Pipe Organ. This formation is unique in that several stalactites and draperies, when struck with a piece of wood, sound different tones, thus giving it its musical instrument name.
History of the Area
In 1959 Cascade Cave, once privately owned and operated, became a part of the Carter Cave State Park System. Shown to visitors since 1925, the cavern is made up a series of parallel passages. They are filled with dripstone formations of different types. The entrance to Cascade Cave is located on the side of one of the many sinkholes in the area. Highlights of the cavern include Counterfeiters Room named for the supposed use of the cave by counterfeiters. The Lake Room is so-called for the large pool of water located there. Other interesting points in and around Cascade Cave are Cathedral Room, The Hanging Gardens of King Solomon, Cardross Castle, Ice capped Mountains, and Temple Bells. Cascade Cave also has a beautiful 30 foot underground waterfall.

Carter Caves State Park has several natural bridges. Smokey Bridge is the largest natural bridge in Kentucky. Carter Cave Natural Bridge is the only one in the state with a paved road on top.

Although established as a state park in 1946, funding for Carter Caves did not occur until 1948. Between 1948 and 1955, the state spent $600,000 to create one of the most beautiful parks in the commonwealth. The construction of 45-acre Smokey Lake for fishing and boating added to the attractions of the park. Between 1960 and 1968, the state spent $900,000 to make Carter Caves one of the best resort parks in the system. Improvements at the park included the construction of Caveland Lodge, a nine-hole regulation golf course, miniature golf, picnic areas, and a number of other improvements.
Enjoy the seclusion of a beautiful two-bedroom cottage. Eleven are available 10 have 4 queen beds and 1 has 4 double beds. The newly-built structures offer modern conveniences such as automatic dishwashers and microwave ovens along with covered decks that offer scenic views of the parks wooded hills. Ten of the eleven cottages have two bathrooms. Nine have wood-burning fireplaces. Tableware, cooking utensils and linens are provided with fresh linens available daily. Cottages available by late afternoon. Check out by 1000am, local time. Click here to review our lodging guidelines.
This beautiful fieldstone lodge offers 28 rooms with full amenities.

Each room features a private balcony or patio overlooking the surrounding woodlands. Rooms available by late afternoon. Lodge room check-out by 1100am, local time. A limited number of lodge rooms will be available for pets. High speed wireless internet service available at the lodge.
Enjoy the great outdoors The campground features 89 campsites including 30 tent sites with utilities, a dump station, and two central service buildings with rest rooms and showers. The tent sites do not have water or electric. Closed for season from November 15 to mid-March 15.

Carter Caves offers 8 pull-through campsites specifically designed for horse owners. These sites feature electric, water and sewer hook-ups. Each site has its own corresponding hitching posts for up to four horses, picnic table, lantern hanger fire ring/grill combo. Horse campers have access to all campground amenities, which include bathhouses, laundry area and playgrounds. Riders can enjoy 12 miles of multi use trails, accessible from the horse camp.
Open all year.
A large, lifeguard-protected swimming pool, located a half-mile drive from the lodge, is free to lodge and cottage guests.
The park offers a variety of boating options for visitors. There is Smoky Lake, where guests can rent pedal boats and rowboats to explore the water at their own pace. Additionally, guided canoe trips are available on Tygarts Creek which allow participants to enjoy scenic views while learning about local history and geology from an experienced guide.
Smokey Valley Lake is Kentuckys first trophy bass lake In addition to largemouth bass, anglers vie for bluegill, catfish, and crappie. Fishing license required for both residents and non-residents and are available at the front desk.

Don't have a fishing pole No problem Ask at the park about their fishing loaner program where you can check out FREE equipment.
Take a guided canoe trip on the 45acre Smokey Lake to experience the beauty of the rugged, undisturbed terrain.

Fees $12 for adults 13 and up, $6 for children. Seasonal participants must sign up in advance at the Welcome Center.

Carter Caves State Resort Park is located near Grayson, Greenup and Morehead

1. Carter Caves State Resort Park offers numerous picnic areas with tables and grills.
2. There are three large, rentable shelters for group picnics.
3. Picnic spots offer beautiful views of the surrounding nature.
4. Some sites have playgrounds nearby for children's entertainment.
5. The park also provides restroom facilities near picnic locations.

Biking enthusiasts can explore the 8.3-mile Smokey Bridge Day Use Area trail, but be aware it's quite challenging.

The park offers bike rentals for those who don't bring their own equipment; however, availability may vary seasonally.

While biking is permitted on most trails within this area in Kentucky, some restrictions apply to protect natural resources.

Remember that helmets are required when cycling - safety first!

Be cautious of wildlife and other visitors while enjoying your ride through these beautiful landscapes.

Please note: off-road or mountain biking isn't allowed due to potential damage to sensitive ecosystems.
Discover the above ground beauty of Carter Caves on 26 miles of wooded nature trails. Trails range from easy to difficult hiking level ability. The Kiser Hollow Trail, 10 miles, and the newly developed Cave Branch Loop Trail, 2 miles, are multi use trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. Guests bring and ride mountain bikes. No ATVs allowed, and no overnight camping on the trail.
Winter is a time for northern sparrows, finches, wrens, juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, purple finches, pine siskins, and occasionally, evening grobeaks and brown creepers. Spring is alive with warbler migrations, waterfowl thrushes. Interesting birds to look for are Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Double-breasted Cormorants, and cedar waxwings. In the summer nesting warblers include redstarts, ceruleans, pines, Blue wings, Parulas, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Red-tailed Hawks. Excellent birding opportunities about throughout the park, but of special note is in the mature forests around the campgrounds, cottage area red-headed Woodpeckers, the Box Canyon Trail, and the short trail to Carter Caves Natural Bridge.

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Area Accommodations (over 20 miles away)
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Cottages and Cabins
Trickle Creek offers luxury cabins in Hocking Hills. The cabins are situated on nearly 236 acres of secluded cabin rentals in the deep wooded ravines in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Hocking County, Ohio.
89.6 miles from park*
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Kentucky State Parks