There’s definitely no shortage of things to do at the Carter Caves. From camping to exploring to an annual music festival – this Kentucky State Park has it all! We spoke with Chris Perry, who’s the Park Manager at Carter Caves. He filled us is on where to stay, what to do – and when they turn the water off. Listen to our full interview here:
Videos by Outdoors
Carter Caves State Park Camping, Kentucky
Camp Kentucky: I’m talking with Chris Perry today. He’s the Park Manager at Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky. How’s it going today, Chris?
Chris Perry: Doing great, thanks.
CK: So, let’s start with about how long Carter Caves State Park has been around and how it got its start.
Chris Perry: Carter Caves has been around for 50+ years. We were a privately owned back in the late ’40s and such by some local residents who ran the Park just as a general tourist attraction. And then, in the late ’50s or ’60s, they turned it over to the state. The state started operating it as a State Resort Park and then, in the ’60s, we started the development of a lodge here and of course the campground. So, it didn’t come into effect way after the Park had begun.
CK: Okay, tell me a little bit about the camping there. What do you guys offer?
Chris Perry: We have 95 campgrounds with water and electric, and 20 of those sites have water, electric, and sewer. We also have an eight-site equestrian campground for campers who want to camp with their horses. We also have 20 sites in our primitive tent camping area. The campground has three shower houses and one administration building, and it’s located essentially here in the Park, around all of our other facilities.
CK: Okay. And you guys actually have a lot going on there. I mean the name of the Park, obviously Carter Caves, and I would assume that’s the main attraction. You actually have 26 miles of hiking trails there too.
Chris Perry: Right. We have 26 miles of regular hiking trails. We also have 15 miles of horseback riding trails, which we hope to tie into the local community horse trails here in the next year or so. So, that’ll more than triple our horse mileage, trial mileage. We also have other facilities such as an outdoor public pool that is open for campground guests to use Memorial Day through Labor Day. We have a miniature golf course. We have a 9-hole public golf course. Planned recreation activities take place about every day through the summer. We also do special events, such as Pioneer Life Week in July, which allows people to see how the pioneers lived back in the 1800s. We do that right there in the campground.
We also have our Adventure Weekend, which is in January. We open up the Park to outdoor enthusiasts that like to get out and learn survival skills that take place there in the wintertime. We also have other planned recreation activities such as Valentine’s Dinner Theaters and Murder Mystery Theaters. We do a Friendly Mountain Music Festival every year, and it takes place in our campground, where people will come in and sit around and play traditional music while they’re here. We have started, in this past year, a bluegrass event on the first weekend of October, where we bring in some bluegrass talent and sit around and do jam sessions with bluegrass music as well. And then, in October, with what we’re going through right now, we have our Annual Haunted Trail, which we design a spooky walk, as we call it. It’s a quarter-mile trail where we have different scenes setup that are setup to frighten people as much as we can. It’s called the Haunted Trail.
We do that two weekends in October, and it’s right next to our campground, so all of our campers partake in that and such as that. And then, the last weekend here in October, we’ll have our Halloween Campout, where all the campers decorate their sites. We have a judge; you know, which is the best site, best decorated site, and then we have site-to-site trick or treating. And then we tell ghost stories in one of our caves as well.
CK: You guys have just about everything happening there. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Chris Perry: Yeah, we keep it pretty busy. Of course, you know, in the winter, our campground does close; shuts down. Well, we shut the utilities off – let’s put it that way – in the mid-part of November. We’ll shut the water off to the sites. However, the electric stays on, but you know, mid-November through end of March, not a whole lot going on in the campground, but the camping is still available.
CK: Okay. Now, two more questions for you. If you could spend just one hour in Carter Caves State Park, how would you spend your time?
Chris Perry: My time would be exploring the caves.
Chris Perry: And exploring some of our outdoor nature, such as the natural bridges that we have along the trails. Some of the arches. Just looking at the landscaping of the Park. You know, it’s breathtaking.
CK: Okay, and which cave are you going to go for? Because I was taking a look on your website and it looks like you guys have several different ones down there, so I’m wonder which one is your favorites.
Chris Perry: Cascade is my favorite. It’s the largest cave. It’s more opened up compared to the other caves that’s got really tight passages and such and this. Now, none of these waves you’re crawling you. You’re walking through all these caves, but Cascade is more beautiful. It’s got what we call the indoor lake room. It’s also got an underground waterfall. And you know, you see the bats in that one as well. Maybe not as much as you would in some of other caves, but you get just about everything in Cascade Cave and, like I said, it’s a much larger setting.
CK: Okay. And Chris, if you were going to spend just one night in Carter Caves State Park, which specific spot would you stay at and why?
Chris Perry: The campground or you’re asking for particular campsite?
CK: Particular campsite, yeah.
Chris Perry: Of course, if I’m going to camp, I’m going to camp with full utilities – with water, electric, and sewer – so you’re not having to go through the dump station or anything like that, but I kind of like the campsite anywhere between 57 and 89. They’re all great sites. They’ve got sewer easily accessible and, you know, right next to our mini golf and such as that.
CK: Perfect. Well, that’s a lot of great information. Thank you so much, Chris, for taking some time out of your day to chat with us about Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky.
Chris Perry: All right, thank you sir.