On Fall's Trail in Kentucky

What to Do and Where to Do It
Breaks Interstate Park

Roadless Trout Fishing in the Cumberland River System

The Cumberland River System is the largest river system in Kentucky. Bark Camp, Beaver, Dog Slaughter, Laurel, and Rock creeks are the places to cast your fly. Most of these creeks are stocked with rainbow and in some cases brown trout. All are delightfully scenic. Rock Creek is a classic, and has actually been designated a Kentucky Wild and Scenic River. Dog Slaughter Creek is as wild as its name implies. The lower portion runs through a steep gorge that offers the best fishing maybe because its so hard for other anglers to reach. Beaver Creek flows through the Beaver Creek Wilderness, the forest's least visited, most"undiscovered" wilderness. But we know you won't tell.

Access: The Cumberland River system surrounds Cumberland Falls State Resort Park inMcCreary and Whitley counties along the Tennessee border.
Peak color: Mid- to late October

Hike the Sheltowe Trace Trail

The Red River Gorge National Geologic Area and two superb state parks are among Kentucky's hot spots for enjoying the great outdoors, especially during the fall foliage season in mid- to late October. Cumberland Falls State Reosrt Park and Natural Bridge State Resort Park are connected by the 268-mile Sheltowee Trace Trail system, where hikers can witness some of the most breathtaking views in Kentucky. Cumberland Falls, situated in south-central Kentucky about 20 miles of west of I-75, embraces the second-highest waterfall in the eastern United States, famous for its lunar rainbows. Another popular fall color location is Natural Bridge State Resort Park, located about 50 miles southeast of Lexington in central Kentucky. Here, the broad, dark green leaves of the mountain laurel provide an interesting contrast to yellow redbuds and red black gums as hikers make the mile-long trek to the arch.

Access: The Sheltowe Trace Trail system covers much of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Contact forest ranger districts for more information on specific trailheads.
Peak color: Mid- to late October
More on the Sheltowe Trace Trail system.

Rafting the Russel Fork River

The Grand Canyon of the South can be found on the Kentucky-Virginia border in the Breaks Interstate Park. The Russel Fork River has carved the largest canyon east of the Mississippi. Its craggy, untouchable beauty reaches more than five miles long and 1600 feet deep, guarded by sheer vertical walls most of the way. As it crashes through the gorge, the Russel Fork River drops 350 feet in elevation in a series of rapids, pools, and twists. The area provides spectacular scenery and top-of-the-line rapids for enthusiasts. Some of the most rugged country in the East is showcased along the canyon's rim and the many hiking trails that snake across the landscape. The heavily wooded hills seem enchanted as the sycamores, dogwoods, sourwoods, sweegums, poplar, and maples slowly turn in kaleidoscope of color.

Access: Breaks Interstate Park lies just southeast of Elkhorn City at the juntion of Kentucky 197 and Kentucky 80.
Peak color: Mid- to late October

Canoe Mammoth Cave National Park

Thirty-one miles of the Green and Nolin River wind their way through Mammoth Cave National Park, providing some of the best canoeing in the state. Mammoth Cave National Park has been named a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve and encompasses 52,830 acres protected forestlands. Wildlife and bird watching are favorite pastimes for visitors. Both the Green and Nolin Rivers provide placid waters and shaded banks for a relaxing canoe trip. Let the world slide by as you view breathtaking vistas of towering tulip poplars, hickories and black gums.

Access: The reach the main entrance of Mammoth Cave National Park, take exit 53 off of I-65. Head west on Kentucky 70 into the park.
Peak color: Mid- to late October
More on Mammoth Cave National Park.

Birdwatching at Land Between the Lakes

Take a break and lose yourself in the 170,000 acres of Land Between the Lakes. As its name implies, Land Between the Lakes is surrounded by water. Combine the water, wetlands with 200 miles of heavily forested trails, and you've got a good mix for spotting a wide variety of birds. More than 230 species of birds can be found in the area, including several nesting areas for the American bald eagle.

Access: Take exit 31 off of I-24 and follow Kentucky 453, also known as the Trace, south to the Land Between the Lakes preserve.
Peak color: Mid- to late October
More on Mammoth Cave National Park.

Bike the TransAmerica Bike Trail

The Kentucky section of the TransAmerica Bike Trail is more than 600 miles long. It runs west to east through the center of the state from the Ohio River in rural Crittenden County to the mountainous Pike County. Bike some, or all, of this challenging trail. Visit the roadside stands of the Amish in Crittenden County; historical sites in Hodgenville, Bardstown or Harrodsburg; or a working studio of a variety of craftspeople in Berea. From gently rolling countryside in the west to the challenge of the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains in the east, this scenic on-road trail has something to offer bikers of all skills. Bikers can enjoy the brilliant color of hickories and pawpaws as they pass through the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Access: In the west, the Kentucky section of the TransAmerica Bike Trail starts just across the Ohio River from Cave in Rock, Illinois, on Kentucky 91.
Peak color: October

Drive Somerset to Big South Fork

It's a short but colorful drive from Somerset to Sterns via US 27. Begin your drive with the brilliant colors reflected on the waters of Lake Cumberland. If time permits, a picnic at General Burnside State Park, the state's only island park, could be a perfect addition to your travel plans. Then drive south through the brightly dappled hills of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Once in Stearns, take the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, an eleven mile open-air excursion. At the end of the line is the Blue Heron Mining Community, a recreated '30s and '40s mining town. The skeleton structures in this tiny village feature life-sized photos of past residents and taped oral histories. From the bridge over the roaring Cumberland River at Blue Heron the view is breathtaking. While you are in the Big South Fork NRA, you can take advantage of the miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, developed and primitive camping sites, and many other outdoor activities.

Route: Take the Daniel Boone Parkway to US 27.
Peak color: Mid- to late October
More on scenic drives in Kentucky.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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