Top 5 Hiking Trails in Kentucky
- Red River Gorge Trail
This walk is difficult for the faint of heart and should not be attempted on your own. The stairway is steep, and there are a handful of spots along the route where you may get hurt if you’re not careful. However, for experienced hikers, there are few other options in the state that can compare to the views offered by this trek. Expect to spend some time admiring the views after you reach the top of the stairwell. Even though the climb is just around 3.5 miles long, it’s wise to allow four to six hours for Indian Staircase and Indian Arch Loop.
- Double Arch Trail
This is a hiking-only route that is available all year. The 4.5-mile Double Arch Trail winds through hemlock forests beneath a sandstone cliff, eventually culminating to a spectacular view of Courthouse Rock. The route begins at the Auxier Ridge Trailhead, which is accessible from the Auxier Ridge parking lot off of State Highway 15 at the end of Tunnel Ridge Road. Double Arch is a terrific day trek, but if you want to camp, you may do so as well—just remember to secure a permit ahead of time.
- Sheltowee Trace Trail
This is Kentucky’s most famous hiking trail, a 319-mile behemoth that stretches from Morehead, Kentucky, to Pickett State Park, Tennessee, and passes through the Daniel Boone National Forest. While the path is mostly used for hiking, there are some areas where mountain biking and equestrian riding are allowed. For thru-hikers, the Red River Gorge, Cave Run Lake, Laurel River Lake, and the Big South Fork are among the most beautiful parts of the state.
- Carter Caves State Resort Park Trail
Carter Caverns State Resort Park, in the extreme northeast part of the state, features the state’s largest concentration of caves, and it’s become a favorite destination for rappelling and rock climbing. There are plenty of typical hiking alternatives in the park if you don’t want to venture underground and want to stay on the ground. Cascade and X-Cave, the park’s two main caverns, provide year-round guided excursions for anyone interested in going beneath. If you wish to stay for the weekend, the park has around 100 campsites.
- Canal Loop Trail
In the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, near the Kentucky-Tennessee border, the 11-mile Canal Loop Trail can be found. Between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, the Land Between the Lakes is a peninsula with over 300 miles of shoreline, and the Canal Loop Trail provides the best views of both lakes and the canal in the park. While hikers can walk the entire 11-mile loop, smaller loops along the route allow for shorter hikes if time or stamina is an issue.