When we decided to take a weekend kid-free vacation within driving distance of our Middle Tennessee home, we were looking for somewhere cheap but indoors to stay. I promise we’re not wussy — it’s just really cold out there, folks.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky is within a few hours of our home, and since we’ve never had a chance to explore its many hiking trails, we picked that as our destination. Nearby Rock Cabin Camping seemed to fit the lodging bill, especially after we found that the National Park’s on-site lodge is currently closed for renovations.
The small private campground is just a few minutes from the park’s entrance, and about 10 minutes from the visitor center. It has both campsites and a series of small, historic cabins. Owned and operated by a Navy veteran, the places seems quite rundown when you first drive in. But first impressions aren’t everything.
We stayed in Cabin 3, and paid about $55 for the night. The cabin and linens were clean. The owner, Ralph, was very kind and accommodating. Weekend bookings at Rock Cabin Camping require a two night reservation, and we had booked to stay Friday and Saturday, but were unable to get there for the first night. We called and let him know we wouldn’t be checking in until Saturday. When we arrived — well before the daily check-in time — he only charged us for one night, although we were more than willing to pay for both. They were no where near full, but it was still very kind of him to cut the cost of our stay in half.
So what did we think? Here’s our review.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky Rock Cabin Camping Review
Property. The whole place does seem really rundown. It was cold and snowing while we were there — and I imagine better weather and maybe some grass would make the place look much better. That said it was clear that some things were falling apart. But letting first impressions keep you from staying here would be a mistake. The cabins themselves are fine. And how much time are you going to spend on the property anyway?
Cabin. The cabin we chose was small — we knew that going in. But I don’t think I understood exactly HOW small it was. Really, the size didn’t matter because we didn’t plan to spend much time there. The bigger problems were the inside temperature and the water heater. It was a very, very cold day — low of around 15 over night. And the very small space heater just wasn’t up to the job of bringing the cabin up to a reasonable temperature. We asked Ralph for a second one to help bump the temp up, and after some digging in his back room he was able to give us a radiant heater. Those, of course, pose a huge fire hazard, so we only had it turned on when we were in the room. Once we got the temperature up to a livable level, the small heater was able to sustain it, and we turned the fire hazard off.
The second problem was the water heater. If you don’t want to take a hot shower, don’t worry about it. The hot water only lasted about four minutes. We had come in from five hours of very cold hiking and were ready to warm up. Luke showered for about three minutes, and about one minute into my shower I could tell we were at the end of the hot water. That was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken.
These two issues can be easily explained by the cabin’s age. (You can read their history here.) And I’m betting they are downright pleasant in the summer, since the small air conditioner window unit probably has no problem cooling the place down.
All things considered, the accommodations were totally fine — not great, and not terrible, just fine. For $55 for the night, it was a solid deal.
Staff. The owner, Ralph, was wonderful. He gave us that price cut I mentioned, handed over the extra heater when I asked for it, was kind, accommodating and full of advice on tackling the park. He said he’s in the process of renovating a few of the cabins, and you can see that keeping the property up on his own is a challenge.
Overall we enjoyed staying at Rock Cabin Camping near Mammoth Cave National Park and would go back. We would, however, bring our sleeping bags for extra warmth just in case — because you never know.