Kentucky Tourism

Carter Caves Things To Do

Weather Conditions

Gem Mining

Stop by the Carter Caves Gem Mine, located at the Welcome Center Gift Shop. Begin your discoveries of real, colorful gemstones and fossils at the gemstone flume. Just place a scoop of rough material on the screen...then rinse with clean water. The gem stones, when wet, will reveal colors and crystal shapes!

There are lots of different gemstones to discover! Anything from locally-found Pyrite, Fluorite and Quartz, to Ruby, Moonstone, Topaz, Crystal Points, Sapphire, Emerald, Amethyst, Garnett, Citrine, Aventurine, Obsidian, Sodalite, Calcite and Raspberry Quartz could be found.

Sharing the experience of mining at the flume mine is a lot of fun. You can compare finds and help each other to identify what you've found. We invite individuals, families, and groups of all sizes. Mining is available during regular business hours of the Welcome Center Gift Shop, April through the Sunday after Thanksgiving (weather permitting).


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.


Enjoy the great outdoors! The campground features 89 campsites with utilities, 8 equestrian campsites with utilities, and 30 tent sites without utilities. Two bunkhouses with six wooden bunk beds and electric give those without tents or RV an opportunity to "rough it" (bring your own bedding/linens). A dump station, and three central service buildings with rest rooms and showers available for campers use. November 28, 2017 - March 14, 2018: Horse Campground open with full hook ups (Water, Electric, and Sewer) available at regular price. Campground will be open but with no water available. Electric and Sewer (on sites available) will be available for discounted winter prices. Call park for pricing: 606-286-4411. ** The use of bicycles is prohibited at the equestrian campground **


Bring your canoe and experience the 45–acre Smokey Lake. See the beauty of the rugged, undisturbed terrain in a beautiful, peaceful setting.


The Carter County region has the highest concentration of caves to be found in any area of Kentucky. Two of the park’s caves offer guided tours year-round, Cascade Cave and X-Cave. Enjoy a subterranean adventure, created by nature over millions of years. View tour information from Tours link on Carter Cave's Home page.

Equine Camping

Eight pull-through campsites specifically designed for horse owners 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 15 miles of multi use trails and several miles of back country roads, accessible from the horse camp, through both Carter Caves State Park and Tygart State Forest. Open all Year


Smokey Valley Lake is Kentucky’s 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. Click here to purchase a license online at KY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Don't have a fishing pole? No problem! Ask at the park about their fishing loaner program where you can check out FREE equipment.

Click here for waterbody information with boat ramp details. Information courtesy of KY Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Gift Shop

The Welcome Center provides cave tour information and orientation, rest rooms, and a gift shop featuring authentic Kentucky handcrafts. Our gift shop offers the largest selection of bat items and information in Kentucky. A wide variety of souvenirs, handcrafts, candles, jellies and coal crafted items can also be found. One of our most popular items is the rock display for kids and adults alike.

The gift shop is open from 9:00am - 5:00pm daily.


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.

Horseback Riding

Guided rides are available from 10:00am - 6:00pm. The trail is 3 1/2 miles and lasts about 45 minutes. Pony rides available for children. Rides are available daily through September 11, 2016. Call 606-286-4411 for more information.

Miniature Golf

Also enjoy the 18-hole miniature golf course. In the off-season, clubs and balls are available at the campground registration building and the Lodge front desk. Open seasonally.
Adults: $5.00
Children: $4.00

Pedal Boating

Pedal Boats are no longer available until further notice.


Picnic tables, grills, and playgrounds are located throughout the park. Two rental shelters are available.


Playgrounds are located throughout the park.


A large, lifeguard-protected swimming pool, located a half-mile drive from the lodge, is free to lodge and cottage guests. Please present your key to enter.
Current Pool Hours
Open daily, 10:00am to 7:00pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
All information above is subject to change without notice.
Campers: $3.00
Adults: $5.00 per adult
Children: $4.00

****ALERT**** Starting the week of August 13th:

Sunday: 10am to 7pm
Monday: 4pm to 8pm
Tuesday:: 4pm to 8pm
Wednesday: 4pm to 8pm
Thursday: 4pm to 8pm
Friday: 4pm to 7pm
Saturday: 10am to 7pm

Friday and Saturdays are closing at 7pm due to scheduled pool parties. However, if no pool party is scheduled pool will remain open to 8pm on Friday. Admission on Monday through Friday will be $2.00 for everyone, except for lodge and cottage guests due to the limit number of hours the pool is open. Sunday and Saturday pool hour admission prices of $5.00 for adults $4.00 for children and $3.00 for campers.


Two tennis courts are in the lodge area. Overnight guest may check out rackets.