This trip was made in the fall but could easily be a spring trip.
It seems like planned escapes for fall break have become a more regular occurrence over recent years. If you’re like many schools, you have a few days available to stretch into a long weekend. If you’re like most people, just the words OCTOBER bring on the sensory overload of changing leaves, cool nights and campfires. If this is your idea of a wonderful family getaway you need to consider a trip to The Kentucky Wildlands. Here’s a shared day by day activity schedule of a great family fall three-day getaway.
A trip to The Kentucky Wildlands is not something that can be covered in three days. So first thing is choosing which part of the vast forested region you want to explore. Water activities. Scenic views. Hiking. Utility vehicle exploring. Ziplining. World-class fishing. There really is a little something for anyone that loves the outdoors. My family of four; wife and two teenage boys, are always looking for adventure and fun activities. This trip used the main event, the “Niagara Falls of the South”, as its launching point to build around other activities.
We decided to “go big” from the very beginning. Cumberland Falls is 68 feet high and over 125 feet wide, making it the second largest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Cumberland Falls is located approximately 18 miles southeast of Corbin, KY and 18 miles northwest of Williamsburg, KY. If you’re passing through Corbin to get to the falls, we suggest stopping by Sanders Café. This is the original home to Harland Sanders first restaurant where he created worldwide fame of his original chicken recipe of herbs and spices. Another food option is to pack a few sandwiches and picnic overlooking the falls. Part of the Cumberland Falls State Park, there are plenty of tables and viewing areas. It makes an unforgettable lunch experience.
Cumberland Falls will take some time. The recreation area is large enough and allow you to view the falls from several angles. There is even a beach area to hang out at the lower end of the falls. All of it is breathtaking. Grab you some Ale-8 while you’re there. It’s a Kentucky treasure (it tastes like a sweet ginger ale) made down the road in Winchester, KY. You can get it in the state park gift shop.
The state park has plenty of cabins and lodging options. All are connected to boundless hiking trails. We opted to go 5 miles down the road to Sheltowee Adventure Resort. Sheltowee has it all depending on your interest; RV camp sites, tent camping, cabins and even covered wagons. We rented one room cabins called Cozy Cabins (we got two side by side). Each cabin came with a fire ring and grill. The cabins had electricity but no water. Nearby bath houses were very clean. Most importantly, dinner was a success - campfire tacos!
We woke up to a small but consistent rain shower. The scheduled kayaking on the Upper Cumberland River could still happen but we elected to call an audible and hike to Dog Slaughter Falls. Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, Dog Slaughter Falls is amidst thick forest. In fact, the dense forest serves as a canopy of protection so you hardly notice the rain. About a 2.5 mile hike with some twists and turns that made you feel good about the exercise, but nothing too difficult. We packed a lunch and once arriving at the falls, used a large rock as a table. Waterfalls are magical and this one did not disappoint.
Dinner for the night was fireside chili in the cast iron dutch oven and apple cobbler in the cast iron skillet. We used Kingsford charcoal since it’s manufactured literally down the road. Charcoal can be prepared and used on gravel or dirt. This is helpful when it’s raining and you are unable to create a large fire or use the grill.
After two days of waterfalls the family wanted a change of pace so we set out to Stearns and the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. The Stearns Company was one of the pioneers of the famous Kentucky coal. They started hauling coal from the Barthell Coal Camp in 1903, eventually earning it the nickname “Empire of the South”. The train excursion from Stearns to the Barthell Coal Camp was educational but also beautiful. It was near peak leaf peeping season in the region and the colors and natural landscape of the terrain were nothing short of magical. The round trip time was a relaxing three-hours.
After the trip to Stearns, we packed our car and headed home. The ride home was filled with discussions about waterfalls, hiking and Kentucky’s coal heritage. Isn’t the goal of a family trip memories and conversations? If so, consider this one mission accomplished!
If you’re interested in visiting some of the places from this trip, below provides some links to local tourism resources for things to do, lodging, and activities.