Duncan Hines Scenic Byway
Cakes, Corvettes and Caves
|Mileage||99 miles (160 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||2 hours, 52 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||Spring, Summer, and Fall|
|Roadways||Kentucky Highways 101, 1352, 1827, 187, 2325, 238, 259, 70, and 728, and US Highway 31W|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, pharmacies, etc.||Bowling Green, KY▼, Smiths Grove, KY▼, Cave City, KY▼, and Mammoth Cave, KY▼|
3.3 average from 56 votes
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This sweet drive combines the legacy of Duncan Hines, the inventor of the infamous cake mix, the birthplace of the Corvette, and the fascinating landscape of Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest known cave system.
The drive begins and ends in the vibrant town of Bowling Green, Kentucky. There are many not-to-be-missed activities here, which depending on your schedule, can be visited before heading out, or at the end of the drive.
The drives namesake Duncan Hines was born in Bowling Green in 1880. An exhibit titled Recommended by Duncan Hines at the Kentucky Museum (M2), allows you to learn about the real man. We all remember the cake mix, but did you know that Duncan Hines was one of the first travel reviewers? Mr. Hines traveled across the U.S. frequently, and kept a journal compiling a list of best restaurants, hotels and motels. After giving the list to friends for Christmas, he was encouraged to publish his recommendations. The guidebooks became very popular, especially with the new American pastime — road tripping! Other exhibits include A Star in Each Flag which examines the Civil War, and Faces and Places, a rich collection of historic textiles, quilts, and embroidered pillows. There is fee to enter, free for current WKU students.
If you are passionate about quilting, or want to discover the rich textures, patterns, and colors of these intricate works of art, do not miss a side trip to the National Quilt Museum (M4) in Paducah. Peruse exquisite antique and contemporary quilts, fiber art, observe local quilters at work on Wednesdays, and participate in the museum’s renowned workshops and educational programs. There is a fee to enter.
We don’t know of many other cars that spark the same excitement as the Corvette. Celebrate America’s Sport Car at the National Corvette Museum (M3). Delve into the history of this iconic vehicle through an impressive array of exhibits, memorabilia, films, video, interactive displays, and of course, many corvette models. Walk through a 1960’s dealer showroom, dine in the 1950’s style cafe, and enjoy a series of outdoor events. Did you know that every Corvette is produced at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant (A2) just across the street? Tours are available, advance reservations on-line highly recommended. There is a fee for the tour, separate from the museum entrance fee. In mid-July, join thousands who attend the Corvette Homecoming, a car show like no other.
Tour the Lost River Cave (A3) via underground boat cruise to learn the history and science behind the interesting geologic rock formations. There is a fee for tours. There are two miles of walking trails that are free and open to the public including the Blue Hole Trail that leads to a seasonal butterfly habitat.
Kentucky is home to yet another recognizable brand name. The Fruit of the Loom Headquarters (A1) are located in Bowling. Stock up at the Brand Shop that showcases Fruit of The Loom and family of products.
Train buffs will love the Historic RailPark and Train Museum (M1) which explores the social and cultural history of train travel. Climb aboard five restored railcars; the 1921 Railroad Post Office Car, the Duncan Hines Diner, the Towering Pine Sleeper, the Presidential Office Car and the Little Red Caboose.
Our drive officially begins on US-31W heading north at Duncan Hines’ original home, which is now a funeral home. There is a historical marker.
Throughout the drive, winding country roads reveal rolling hills with grazing cattle and family farms, many that sell picnic-perfect seasonal produce, as well as flowers, art, and crafts.
The quaint town of Smiths Grove is a treasure hunters dream. Discover a plethora of antique and vintage collectible shops.
Nestled in the Green River Valley is Mammoth Cave National Park (H1). So far, over 400 miles of passages have been explored and there’s still more to discover. Descend into a magical labyrinth of rock spires and dripping formations, waterfalls, a subterranean river and more. Nature’s architecture was used by Native Americans for shelter and burial, saltpeter was mined to create explosives in the 1800’s, and it is home to unique animals such as eyeless freshwater cave shrimp, crayfish, beetles and yes — bats, though you are unlikely to meet any on a tour. There are different tours offering a range of length and difficulty, from the easy 1/4-mile Frozen Niagara Tour which has only 12 stairs, to the 3/4 mile Domes and Dripstones tour that includes 500 stairs, to the strenuous 5-mile Wild Cave Tour which travels through undeveloped passageways and requires climbing and crawling. All tours are ranger-guided. Advance reservations are strongly recommended (call 877-444-6777) and they cannot be made the same day of a tour. Check the park website for tour options, schedule, and pricing. With over 52,000 acres, Mammoth Cave National Park offers many other recreational activities. There are 84-miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The Green River and Nolin River meander through the park, perfect for a canoe or kayak excursion, or fishing for bluegill, bass, and perch. Mammoth Cave Campground offers sites for tent, trailers and RVs which can be reserved. At Houchin Ferry Campground you’ll find 12 primitive sites, not suitable for large trailers or RVs, and Maple Springs Campground is geared for equestrian groups. The park is free to enter. There is a fee for cave tours.
To continue our drive, you will have to take the Green River Ferry which fits only 3 cars. The short ride across is free.
Continuing on KY-728 you arrive at Nolin Lake which has three recreation areas. Nolin Lake State Park (H3) makes a prime base destination offering swimming, boating, fishing for bass, walleye, and catfish, and camping. There are campsites for tents, RV’s, and three that have been adapted for the disabled. The Brier Recreation Area (H2) features the Creek Mountain Bike Trail System designed by the Southwest Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, and you’ll find miles of challenging trails for all levels of biking and hiking. In April, delight in a colorful array of spring wildflowers such as Spring Beauty, Bluets or Quaker Ladies. Or cruise the calm waters in a canoe, kayak or on paddle-board. The vantage point reveals interesting rock formations along the shore. The Brier Recreation Area (H2) and Moutardier Recreation Area (H4) which is further north and sits along the shore of Nolin River Lake, both offer fishing, boating, and camping. In nearby towns, you’ll find concessionaires with boat rentals, supplies, restaurants, cabin rentals, etc.
Just south of Nolin Dam Road is an easy hike to the top of Dismal Rock which rewards with views of Nolin Dam and surrounding landscape. The rock is a popular destination for rock climbers.
The road continues through Bee Spring, Brownsville, and loops back to Smiths Grove before heading back to Bowling Green where our drive officially ends.