Miles of Hiking in The Kentucky Wildlands

Explore miles of trails hiking in The Kentucky Wildlands – from a short day trip to an overnight backpacking adventure. With over 600 miles of pristine national forest trails, enjoy getting lost among the unique natural wonders and rock formations the forest has to offer. Trek alongside beautiful cascading waterfalls and explore towering sandstone cliffs. The options for hiking in Kentucky’s Appalachian region are truly unlimited with trails ranging from easy to challenging.

Adventures in Daniel Boone National Forest

In the Daniel Boone National Forest, you’ll find more than 708,000 sprawling acres filled with hundreds of trails to explore – many of which interconnect, allowing you to plan a route of varying lengths and difficulty. Ideal for both day hiking and backpacking, you’ll find adventure along every trail. The forest offers many connected trailways providing abundant wildlife and breathtaking views at every turn.

Want a hiking trail the whole family will enjoy? Try the Sky Bridge Trail, a short one-mile loop with plenty of family-friendly adventure and stellar sights – and don’t forget to bring your pup, as this trail is perfect for your furry friends, too! There is a flight of stairs involved, but beyond that, nothing strenuous – unless you’re afraid of heights. This hike is a rare combination of ease and adrenaline since there is a cliff shelf without guardrails in some spots of the hike. But the beautiful lookout from the bridge makes it all worth it!

If you’re looking for a longer, more advanced hike, The Sand Gap Trail is for you. Gear up for a challenging, yet rewarding experience as you make your way through various landscapes along this 9.5-mile route. Sand Gap requires 4-6 hours to complete and it’s important to note: There are no shortcuts once you’ve started, so allow yourself adequate timing to get back to the trailhead before dark. With so many hiking trails to choose from, you’ll enjoy a new experience every time you visit.

The Backbone of The Forest

Journey along the “backbone of the forest”, the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. This 343-mile trail runs through the Daniel Boone National Forest, looping various trails together. With numerous waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and other natural views, this trail is a dream come true for nature lovers. Sheltowee is also a multi-use trail, with horses, mountain bikes and all-terrain vehicles allowed in some designated sections.

Check out Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area if you’re looking for beauty and adventure all wrapped into one. Located along the Sheltowee Trace, the Big South offers 150 miles of marked trails for every level of hiking. With each hike, you can discover rock houses and scenic gorges among the beautiful landscapes. Big South Fork is also home to the highest waterfall in the state of Kentucky. A short half-mile hike will lead you right to Yahoo Falls. On a clear night, this area is also an excellent place for stargazing. You may even come across some native wildlife.

Refreshing Waters of Creation Falls

Looking for some beautiful vistas on your hike in The Kentucky Wildlands? Check out Red River Gorge, a stunning canyon system that is federally designated a National Geological Area. Home to the highest concentration of sandstone arches east of the Mississippi, Red River Gorge offers stunning sights year-round on any hiking route you choose, with unique rock formations and sandstone archways to explore.

One popular trek is The Rock Bridge Trail, great for those who enjoy a more casual, leisurely hike. Generally considered a moderately challenging route that takes about 40 minutes to complete on average, this 1.5-mile-long loop reveals the beauty of Creation Falls. As you descend further into the woods, you’ll begin to catch glimpses of the falls. Once at the bottom, relax and admire the stunning waterfall. Stay as long as you’d like or connect with another trail for a different adventure.

Three States All in One

If you’re looking for a unique, breathtaking experience, make your way up to Pinnacle Overlook. Located in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, this overlook is worth the hike. This stunning view offers you a look out over three states: Kentucky on your right, Tennessee directly ahead and Virginia to your left.

To experience this wonder, head to the Sugar Run Picnic Area along Pinnacle Road and begin your hike on the popular Pinnacle Overlook Trail. Along the 7.8-mile out-and-back route, capture views of the pass in the Cumberland Mountains, once used by pioneers headed out west. Continue hiking your way up starting at Sugar Run Trail and intersecting through Ridge Trail. With so much rich history and abundant scenery, this hike is just as special as the view at the top.

Niagara of The South

For awe-inspiring cascades, grab your hiking boots and head to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. With over 17 miles of hiking trails, this is truly a hiker’s paradise. In fact, thanks to the photogenic Cumberland Falls, the site is nicknamed the “Niagara of the South” and is a must-see for any hiker.

To catch one of the best views of the waterfalls, follow the moderate-rated Eagle Falls Trail, a short but rugged hike that can be difficult at times due to its many stairs and some required rock climbing. Once you track along the cliff of this 1.5-mile route, you’ll see the stunning sights of Cumberland Falls, one of the few places in the world that regularly produces a “moonbow.” If you’re looking for an even more spectacular experience, visit the waterfall at night. Hike the Moonbow Trail up to two days before or after a full moon to view the lunar rainbow.

Trail Town of Manchester

Take a hike through history as you retrace the path once used by wild buffalo and Daniel Boone. Located in the mountain town of Manchester, the River Walk Trail is one of many that you can experience in the heart of the Appalachian Highlands. Starting at Rawlings/Stinson Park north of town, enjoy a peaceful hike along the river as you make your way across Goose Creek Swinging Bridge, connecting to historic downtown Manchester and ending at Goose Creek Salt Works. Spend some time at the old Pioneer Village before hiking back for a new trail to explore.

Endless Hiking Opportunities

With so many amazing hiking trails to choose from, many of which are open year-round, casual nature walkers and advanced hikers alike will discover countless options for outdoor adventure in The Kentucky Wildlands. Enjoy a scenic hike through Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, a 2,829​-acre preserve that houses one of the largest concentrations of rare and uncommon species known in the Bluegrass State. Opt for a more rugged hike at Indian Staircase, a challenging 3-mile loop with views for days and a great option for hiking with your pup.

From iconic trails to hidden-gem paths, you’ll never run out of new places to throw on a backpack and go explore in The Kentucky Wildlands.

Hidden Gems in the Kentucky Wildlands

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