Very early Kentucky roads like US 31W (Dixie Highway) developed from buffalo-traces that became vital links for farmers, and eventually transformed into the main corridor from Michigan to the Gulf for tourists. Today, Interstate 65 parallels most of that roadway with more than 40 million vehicles moving along it each year, but US 31W continues to be an artery for locals and for visitors who are searching for an authentic rural Kentucky experience.
A trip along 31W from Bowling Green takes you through the lush, rolling green countryside. The underlying karst topography of thin layers of soil with caves and underground rivers creates a landscape of sinkhole-dotted fields surrounded by knobs that are smaller than mountains but a bit taller than what most think of hills.
Traffic is generally light along the 35-mile route from Bowling Green to the small historic city of Horse Cave. You’ll drive through the gorgeous farmland until you get into neighboring Barren County where you’ll pass through tiny Park City and through Cave City, a gateway town to Mammoth Cave National Park.
As you leave Cave City on US 31-W you immediately enter Hart County and the city limits of Horse Cave. The two tiny towns have been called Twin Cities because of their location and their appeal to tourists.
What you’ll see in Horse Cave:
· Their downtown National Register of Historic Places Commercial District that includes vintage, antique, gift, boutiques, local restaurants and Hidden River Cave/American Cave Museum. PRO TIP: The cave and museum are open daily, but many of the shops and the restaurants are closed on Mondays.
· Hidden River Cave/American Cave Museum (with the world’s longest underground suspension bridge and the region’s largest dome room) is on Main Street right in the middle of town and runs underneath the town’s streets and sidewalks and is marked with aggregate concrete on the sidewalks. An award-winning cell phone tour traces the cave’s pathway, and locals tell the story of how a town developed on top of a cave on the phone tour with more oral histories on the connected website horsecavestories.com.
· Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo, an interactive animal park that also has Mammoth Onyx Cave is about 2 miles from downtown at the I-65 interchange.
· Dutch Country Safari Park, just past KDUAZ, is a drive-through exotic animal park on an Amish farm that you can also take a hayride through. There’s also a petting zoo area. This is one of Hart County’s more than 100 Amish-owned businesses. Some are highlighted on a map/brochure that gives you another road trip adventure!
· Dennison’s Roadside Market is about 5 miles from downtown on even more rural US 31E. It’s a first-rate market with locally-grown produce and locally- made food items and crafts.
For more info, itineraries, blogs, and loads of photos, go to kygetaway.com.