Daniel Boone National Forest
Once known as Cumberland National Forest, but later renamed in 1966 after the legendary American pioneer and frontiersman, Daniel Boone National Forest features 708,000 expansive acres of federally protected U.S. Forest Service land.
From stunning sandstone cliffs, meandering rivers and natural rock bridges to steep forested slopes, sprawling woodlands and narrow ravines, this land still remains virtually unspoiled in a naturally preserved state—similar to when Daniel Boone first crisscrossed its rugged terrain west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Today, that same terrain also offers an abundance of outdoor recreational areas across four ranger districts (Cumberland, London, Redbird and Stearns), spanning 21 counties through parts of south central and eastern Kentucky. Grab your boots and backpack—there is so much to explore in Daniel Boone National Forest!
Hiking & Rock Climbing
Daniel Boone National Forest is home to an extensive trail system, offering a variety of hiking options for all skill levels. With more than 600 miles of connected hiking trails, mountain biking trails and multiple off-road-vehicle trails, Daniel Boone National Forest also offers world-class rock climbing, abundant wildlife, Kentucky’s biggest waterfall, three large pristine lakes, hunting, horseback riding and more.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the area “some of the most rugged terrain west of the Appalachian Mountains.” Featuring names inspired by the area’s stunning geography – like Rock Bridge Trail and Sky Bridge Trail – trails here provide convenient access points for hikes of multiple lengths and abilities.
The forest also boasts Kentucky’s longest trail system: Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, with more than 300 miles of breathtaking backcountry adventure, ranging from moderate to more difficult, to unearth.
The Red River Gorge Geological Area is known as a premier climbing area, affectionately referred to by rock climbers the world over as “The Red,” with 1,600-plus bolted traditional and sport routes available for all experience levels.
Lakes & Camping
Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake and Lake Cumberland (known as the Houseboat Capital of the World) provide multiple marinas, boat ramps and thousands of acres for boating, canoeing, jet skiing, tubing, water skiing, scuba diving, record-setting fishing and clear-water swimming.
Cozy cabin rentals with modern amenities abound, along with hundreds of RV parks and camping sites with electric and water hookups. Multiple picnic areas add to the area’s appeal.
Parks & Lodges
Both parks offer outdoor activities, such as hiking, birding and fishing, as well as breathtaking opportunities to explore unique natural wonders, such as rafting below the 69-foot, river-spanning Cumberland Falls and riding the Sky Lift up to Natural Bridge.
When you’re ready to explore the forest, the forest is ready for you! Explore USDA’s Interactive Forest Visitor Map to locate roads, campgrounds, trails and other recreation sites.
Once you’re here, be sure to check out the Gladie Visitor Center, located at 3451 Sky Bridge Road/KY Route 715 in Stanton, for brochures, maps of activities throughout the forest, directions and tips from helpful personnel. For more information, call 606-663-8100 or 859-488-1413.
Q: How do I get to Daniel Boone National Forest?
A: Daniel Boone National Forest is accessible by car. The forest is located in southeastern Kentucky and can be reached via major highways such as I-75, I-64, and I-65. The closest airports are Blue Grass Airport in Lexington and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Q: Are there entrance fees or permits required to visit the forest?
A: Generally, there are no entrance fees to visit Daniel Boone National Forest. However, some developed campgrounds and recreational areas may have fees to stay or use. Additionally, certain activities such as backcountry camping, hunting and fishing may require permits. Check the forest's official website or contact the visitor center and ranger district offices for specific fee and permit information.
Q: When is the best time to visit?
A: Daniel Boone National Forest can be enjoyed throughout the year. The forest experiences four distinct seasons, with spring and fall being particularly beautiful with mild temperatures. Summers can be hot and humid, while winters can bring cold temperatures and occasional snow. Choose a time that aligns with your preferred activities and weather preferences.
Q: Are there facilities and amenities available within the forest?
A: Daniel Boone National Forest offers various amenities and facilities, including developed campgrounds with restrooms, picnic areas with tables and fire rings. However, some areas of the forest may have limited or no facilities, especially in more remote or backcountry locations. Plan accordingly and carry necessary supplies such as food, water and toiletries when exploring less developed areas.
Q: Can I bring my pets to Daniel Boone National Forest?
A: Yes, pets are welcome but must be kept on a leash at all times. It's important to be mindful of other visitors and the wildlife in the forest. Always clean up after your pets and follow the forest's regulations regarding pet access to specific areas.
Q: Is there cell phone reception in the forest?
A: Cell phone reception can vary within Daniel Boone National Forest. While some areas may have good coverage, more remote or mountainous regions may have limited or no reception. It's advisable to have a backup plan, carry a physical map and inform someone about your plans and expected return time when venturing into areas with poor cell phone reception.
Q: Are there any restrictions or guidelines for recreational activities in the forest?
A: Yes, there are specific guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety and preservation of Daniel Boone National Forest. These may include rules for camping, fishing, hunting, off-road vehicle use and fire regulations. It's important to familiarize yourself with these guidelines and follow them to protect the forest and have a safe and enjoyable experience.