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Trail of the Week: Sal Hollow Trail, Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky has beauty above-ground, too

Our Trail of the Week feature is made possible through a partnership with Trail Run Project.

Mammoth Cave National Park is known for the longest cave system in the world—underground, of course. What’s less appreciated is the beauty above the cave, protected by the National Park Service, which features trails that runners love.

The Sal Hollow and Buffalo Creek Loop is a beautiful route nearly 11 miles in length. The Sal Hollow Trail is one of the most popular routes in the park that explores the Kentucky forest.

Set out from the Maple Springs parking lot and begin your adventure by catching the Sal Hollow Trail to the left. The first few miles are quite enjoyable, with a well-trodden path and enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. The forest varies from rather open with airy clearings to Jurassic Park overgrowth, where just finding the trail is fun. There are several small creek crossings and a few small waterfalls to explore just off-trail.

The midway point of the Sal Hollow Trail is the intersection with the Turnhole Bend Trail, around mile 3.8. That is the perfect spot to rest and take in a gel.

Continuing on the Sal Hollow Trail from that point becomes an adventure. The second half seems to be less used and more overgrown. The trail itself is mostly good, with typical roots and rocks, but there are more sections of swampy footing which tend to swallow shoes and/or be very slick. Especially note miles 5-6, that are a sustained rocky downhill. At the bottom of the hollow are a couple of creek crossings, then the trail heads uphill for a bit. Passing the Sal Hollow Campsite just past mile 6, the trail still trends uphill, but the running becomes much smoother and more fun as you approach the end.

The Sal Hollow Trail ends at mile 8 at the intersection with the Buffalo Creek Trail. Turn right on this trail for an easy recovery-welcoming pace back to the parking lot.

The Data

Miles: 10.8

Runnable: 96 percent

Singletrack: 80 percent

Average Grade: 3 percent

Max Grade: 22 percent

Total Ascent: 863 feet

Total Descent: -885 feet

Highest Elevation: 894 feet

For a closer look, check out the interactive map, data, photos and virtual run simulator courtesy of Trail Run Project: