Kentucky State Parks Activities
Known as the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls State Park is the place to camp at if you’re visiting Kentucky. The park offers two highly sought-after campgrounds, both of which are open to tent and RV campers. If you’re looking to camp here, try your best to reserve a site during a full moon – the waterfall’s “moonbow,” a lunar rainbow and natural phenomenon that exists only here is to die for!
Another popular camping destination in Kentucky is Big Bone Lick State Park, which has over 62 sites that feature utility hookups, grills, and a children’s playground. Keep an eye out for the small bison herd that have made their home inside the park.
At Natural Bridge State Resort Park, pitch your tent under the expanse of towering trees and otherworldly rock formations. For those who love to explore the outdoors, this park is perfect for you!
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The 10.8-mile Moonbow Trail at Cumberland Falls State Park is considered to be the best and most unique hiking route in Kentucky, starting at the falls and ending at the mouth of the Laurel River. A total of 17 miles of trails can also be found inside the park, making it the go-to destination for hikers looking for an unforgettable experience.
Taylorsville Lake State Park is another favorite hiking destination with approximately 18 miles of trails that meander through lush forests and the shores of the beautiful Taylorsville Lake. This park is extremely popular with locals so don’t be shocked by the size of the weekend crowds there!
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If you’re up for the adventure of a lifetime, take on the Sheltowee Trace Trail, a 319-mile behemoth considered by many to be Kentucky’s signature hiking trail. This route takes backpackers through the Daniel Boone National Forest and culminates at Pickett State Park all the way in Tennessee!
There are plenty of prime fishing holes in Kentucky, one of them being Lake Cumberland, which can be accessed through Lake Cumberland State Resort Park. The park also offers fishing tours for anglers interested in taking on the lake’s top fishing spots.
Yatesville Lake State Park, on the other hand, is best known for their crappie, bluegill, and bass fishing. Be advised, though, that a fishing license is required from anglers looking to fish here.
As the name suggests, Fishtrap Lake State Park is another popular fishing hole in The Bluegrass State! The man-made Fishtrap Lake is full of crappie, black bass, striped bass, and catfish, making it the ideal spot for many anglers.
At Barren River Lake State Resort Park, try locating the cache cleverly concealed along the 1.2-mile Peter’s Creek Trail. This special lockbox contains several trade items that are highly sought after by geocachers everywhere.
Caches are also hidden at Carr Creek State Park although they’re mostly easy to locate and don’t require strenuous hiking. This is the perfect spot for geocaching newbies or those looking to try their hand at it!
Over 49 state parks in Kentucky take part in the Kentucky State Parks Geotour, which take geocachers along shorelines to winding caves, to enchanted woodlands and more. This is definitely a bucket-list kind of experience!
Seven public hunting areas can be found at Barren River Lake State Park but take note that only primitive weapons – such as bows, crossbows, and muzzleloaders – can be used. Hunters looking to pursue some deer and waterfowl may do so in this park.
Hunting may also be done at Green River Lake State Park, Kincaid Lake State Park, Taylorsville State Park, and Yatesville Lake State Park. Each has their own set of rules and regulations, though, so be sure to familiarize yourself with these before heading on down there.
Day Use Areas
Located on the shores of the Mississippi River, Columbus Belmont State Park offers picturesque picnic spots for tourists and residents alike. Watch barges floating along the river as you consume your meal on the many picnic tables scattered all over the park’s day-use areas. There are also grills and four picnic shelters that visitors may avail of.
The beautiful rolling hills of central Kentucky, which can be found at Lincoln Homestead State Park, are also the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. Those planning to stop by can rent one of the park’s picnic shelters or opt for the many tables found inside.
At Old Fort Harrod State Park, enjoy your meal under the branches of the largest Osage Orange Tree in the United States. After your picnic, walk off the meal by touring the park’s recreated pioneer fort!
A BMX cycling track can be found at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, which is ideal for those wishing to take their skills to the next level.
Those who want a more challenging ride can opt for the Brier Creek Trail System found at Nolin Lake State Park. This trail runs for approximately 9.2 miles and features natural obstacles that intermediate and advanced riders will find to their liking!
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The 539-hectare Green River Lake State Park boasts of over 200 boat slips, making it the go-to boating destination for watercraft enthusiasts. Visitors are also welcome to take their boats to fish in deeper waters as the lake is full of largemouth bass, muskellunge, white crappie, and more.
Boat ramps are also found at Yatesville Lake State Park, which many consider to be the top fishing hole in Kentucky. Exploring the park’s beautiful nature landscapes and the crystal-clear waters of the lake is better onboard a boat!
Daniel Boone National Forest is another favorite boating spot with seven ramps at various locations around Laurel River Lake. The lake’s 85 meters of water is some of the cleanest in Kentucky, perfect for those wishing to explore the state’s stunning nature and diverse wildlife while on watercraft.
Falls of the Ohio State Park may sound like it isn’t anywhere near Kentucky but part of the park actually sits inside the state’s borders and many resident Bird-watchers consider the species found inside to be theirs. Notable birds in the park include the Peregrine Falcon, the Black Vulture, and the Great Blue Heron. Rarities like the Iceland Gull and the Lesser Black-backed Gull may also be observed during the wintertime.
Perhaps the most famous Birding spot in Kentucky is John James Audubon State Park, whose diverse habitats include lush forests, sprawling fields, and deep ponds set beside the Ohio River. Here, unique species like the Kentucky Warbler and the Baltimore Oriole may be spotted. The park is also a focal point of the annual Ohio Valley Birding Festival that takes place in April, making it the perfect destination for Bird-watchers from all over the country. If you are considering taking up birding, check out our review of the best binoculars for birding, where we show you the top binoculars for each price category.
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The Bluegrass State may be known for its unique and smooth meadow-like grass but it also boasts of a plethora of lakes and rivers great for cooling off during the scorching summer days! You will love the beaches.
The 64,900 Kentucky Lake is held to be the best swimming hole in the state and can be accessed via two different state parks: Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park and Kenlake State Resort Park.
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, which sits along the northern shore of the incredible Lake Cumberland, is also a favorite swimming destination. The park and the lake are major tourist spots, drawing over four million visitors per year, so don’t be shocked by the crowds that you’ll find here!
Those who prefer a quieter and more peaceful swimming spot should head over to Nolin Lake State Park. Swim in the tranquil waters of the reservoir and afterward, take in a stunning view of the sunset.
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The Dale Hollow Lake Golf Course at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park is a challenging 18-hole course featuring scenic views and well-kept grounds. Newbies at the sport can opt for the park’s mini-golf course, which is favored by many kids and teenagers.
Miniature golf courses may also be found at Big Bone Lick State Park and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.
At Carter Caves State Resort Park, avid equestrians can take on over 26 miles of horseback riding trails that wind through the park’s incredible rock formations and dense greenery. The park also offers equine campsites so you can be sure that your beloved horses get the rest that they need after a long and exhausting day.
The Lewis Hill Trail at Barren River Lake State Resort Park is also perfect for horseback riders! The park is considered to be one of the best in Kentucky so a ride through here will surely be an unforgettable experience.
Caving enthusiasts will be delighted by the opportunities found at Carter Caves State Park, which boasts of over 20 caves that can be explored through various ways. Visitors can choose to take on a self-guided tour although more adventurous ones can opt for a cave crawl. Be advised, though, that those looking to do the latter must pass a squeeze test first before being allowed to purchase tickets!
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, head over to the park’s Cascade Cave, which gets its name for the 30-food underground waterfall found inside.
At Big Bone Lick State Park, history enthusiasts should check out the park’s Visitor’s Center and Museum, which features exhibits on the remarkable fossils of prehistoric animals that have been uncovered within the park’s grounds. There are also interpretative panels explaining everything in front of you along the park’s Discovery Trail, making it the perfect destination for those who want to combine fun with learning.
A small museum and a Civil War Trail may also be found at Columbus Belmont State Park, which allows visitors to follow along in the footsteps of Confederate soldiers and explore the trenches that they dug. The park is situated on what used to be a Confederate fortification built during the Civil War so learning about its history is a must for every visitor.
Going on a winter hike is one of the best things to do in Kentucky due to the plethora of wildlife that can be observed then. At Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, take part in the guided elk tours where you can observe the largest elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains. This majestic experience is something that you won’t forget!
Kenlake State Resort Park is also a prime winter destination, especially in February when the Eagle Watch Weekend occurs. Visitors can board an Eagle Cruise on Kentucky Lake and catch glimpses of bald eagles and golden eagles soaring through the sky.
There are plenty of orienteering courses in Kentucky, some of which are situated in Big Bone Lick State Park, E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, Taylorsville Lake State Park, Rough River Dam State Resort Park, and more.