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Staff Picks

Are you ready to get off the beaten path? You’ve come to the right state. You’ll enjoy miles of scenic hiking trails at Kentucky State Parks. Our trails have something for everyone, from rugged hikes to leisurely scenic strolls.

We asked staff members from the Kentucky State Parks to offer suggestions about some of their favorite trails and we’ve listed them below. The Kentucky State Parks are participating in the Kentucky Health Now initiative to promote the health and fitness of all Kentuckians. Hiking is great outdoor exercise and park trails are great places for hiking.

Please be careful when hiking and take the usual precautions – check the weather, bring water, dress appropriately, stay on the trail and please don’t litter. We hope you enjoy these trails as much as we do.

If you take a camera, post your picture on our Facebook page!

Where: General Butler State Resort Park
Trail: Butler Lake Trail
Length: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This trail is a community-based project with the goal of providing a safe alternative route for exercising and accessing various amenities, historical features and recreational opportunities surrounding Butler Lake. The trail interconnects to additional 6 miles of trail within the park and is shared use for walking, hiking and biking.

Picked by: Tanya Supplee
Program Service Supervisor at General Butler State Resort Park
Where: Nolin Lake State Park
Trail: Brier Creek Trail
Length: 4.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Once completed, the Brier Creek Trail system will offer something for everyone interested in outdoor nature activities. About 3.5 miles of this trail will be located just along the shoreline of Nolin River Lake. Upon completion the trail will be over 8.5 miles with three different loops to chose from. The first two loops -- Waterfall (1.9 miles) and Omega (3 miles) are complete. Guests will have access by foot or mountain bike to some impressive views of Nolin River Lake, beautiful rock outcroppings, and spectacular boulders. The trail will be the only trail at Nolin River Lake in excess of 1 mile. The Brier Creek trail head is located within Nolin Lake State Park, which provides camping. The campground provides water and electric hook-ups, a shower house, and other amenities.

Picked by: Tammie Honeycutt
Park Manager at Nolin Lake State Park
Where: Pine Mountain State Resort Park
Trail: Fern Garden Trail
Length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous

This trail is unique in that it can be completed as a loop, but both trailheads are remote and begin on sections of the Living Stairway Trail. Being a little more out of the way and isolated, the Fern Garden Trail allows the opportunity to escape. The trail calls for traversing native hemlock forest, meandering through an area of large boulders, and passing through the fern garden from which it received its name. Here, during the summer season and if it is a particularly wet year, cinnamon ferns may grow as tall as 3 or 4 feet! As this trail is a little more strenuous and isolated, it is important you carry a trail map. Other recommendations include good hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks, and a camera!

Picked by: Beth Byrnes
Parks Program Services Supervisor at Pine Mountain State Resort Park
Where: Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site
Trail: Woods Walk Trail
Length: 200 yard loop
Difficulty: Easy

These woods were once home to Native Americans of the Mississippian mound building culture. They lived in this village from about 1100 to 1350 A.D. Woodlands were as important and familiar to the Mississippian people as the cornfields and town. The forest provided firewood, plants for medicine, wood and plants for houses, tools, canoes, baskets and clothing. The animals, birds and insects that people depended on could not live anywhere else. These woods have not been burned or logged in decades. Many of the plants that you observe now would have been present when the Mississippian people lived here. Visitors can pause to view some of the plants that Native Americans used in this rich environment. Check out the Cherry Bark Oak tree along the trail, it’s the largest tree on the park. Always good to bring along binoculars for bird viewing and camera for photo opportunities.

Picked by: Carla Hildebrand
Park Manager at Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site
Where: Barren River Lake State Resort Park
Trail: Connell Nature Trail
Length: 1 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Descend down into the woods above a sinking stream which leads to a cistern left over from an old homestead. A portion of the trail offers a glimpse of the Sunset Cove area and lake. Continue along the trail deeper into the woods to cross over dry sinking stream beds, identify flora and fauna of the park, and explore the park geography. Look for wildflowers and wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, pileated woodpeckers, owls, and deer. Bring water, apply bug spray, and sunscreen. For more of an adventure along this trail, visitors can purchase a Beginner Orienteering Map for only $2 and go on an exploration adventure.

Picked by: Jamie Avery
Parks Program Services Supervisor at Barren River Lake State Resort Park
Where: Carter Caves State Resort Park
Trial: Three Bridges Trail
Length: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

This popular trail highlights three of the park’s natural bridges including Smoky Bridge (the park’s largest), Raven Bridge and Fern Bridge. The trail overlooks many vistas of Smoky Valley Lake and travels alongside many impressive sandstone cliffs. It takes approximately 8800 footsteps to complete this trail, and is worth every step! Grab a park map, a hiking stick, a camera, and some water before you venture off on the trail!

Picked by: Coy Ainsley
Park Naturalist at Carter Caves State Resort Park
Where: Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
Trail: Doctor’s Creek Trail
Length: .75 mile
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

This trail follows Doctors Creek, one of the water sources that the troops fought over in the Battle of Perryville in 1862. It begins at interpretive stop 14 and follows the creek to the Old Mackville Road, then loops back to the beginning. The lower part of the trail may be inaccessible during high water. Wear comfortable shoes. The lower leg of the trail has uneven ground.

Picked by: Kurt Holman
Park Manager, Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
Where: Lake Malone State Park
Trail: Laurel Trail
Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

This trail features beautiful lake views, rock bluffs and formations. The trailhead is on the lake near the picnic shelter. The trail ends at the campground office. The park also has the Wildflower Trail, which is .2 miles in length and has a small creek that flows nearby. We recommend guests wear walking shoes or hiking boots.

Picked by: Teresa Wells
Acting Park Manager at Lake Malone State Park
Where: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Trail: Trail No. 2
Length: 7.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Trail No. 2 begins along the river going up stream on the Cumberland. The trail joins with the famous Sheltowee Trace. Scenic bluffs, waterfalls, and mature hemlocks abound along the river. Trail crosses KY90 and continues past Pinnacle Knob fire tower. The trail descends again to the river where you will see Civilian Conservation Corp work at its finest -- stone steps laid and still serviceably sound. Beautiful mosses and wildflower abound. Bring your camera and water. Plenty of rocks along the shore to make a picnic on.

Picked by: Pam Gibson
Trail Maintenance Staff at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Where: Columbus-Belmont State Park
Trail: Historic Civil War Hiking Trail
Length: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This hiking trail goes around the entire park and includes passage through historic Civil War earthworks that were dug by Confederate soldiers in 1861. There is also a nature trail through the woods. Approximately one half of the trail follows the paved sidewalks and the other half has a natural trail surface.

Picked by: Cindy Lynch
Park Manager at Columbus-Belmont State Park
Where: Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park
Trail: The Heritage Trail
Length: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This trail retraces the history of the Blue Licks Springs. Ranging from prehistoric times to the present, all of the Blue Licks history revolves around the salt springs that were once found here. Hikers will see a nature preserve that is home to one of the most endangered species of wildflower, the Short’s Goldenrod. Visitors have the chance to see what life would have been like here at the springs through a re-constructed trade fort, documented being here as early as 1784. Also featured on the trail are native plants such a cane and warm season grasses. Visitors can access the trail from the Buffalo Trace trail beside the nature center. We recommend good shoes, a walking stick and binoculars.

Picked by: Rob Mack
Park Manager at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park
Where: Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
Trail: Jenny Wiley Trail
Length: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous

The Jenny Wiley Trail is set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This scenic trail spans 3/4 of the length of Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, and offers two scenic overlooks with views of Dewey Lake. Along the trail you will find many species of wildflowers, and you will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of native wildlife. The Jenny Wiley Trail begins at Cottage 301/302 and ends at the Terry Boat Ramp. Be sure to wear proper footwear such as closed-toe shoes/hikers. If you plan on hiking the entire 4.5 miles, you may want to bring a day pack with snacks and water. Don't forget your camera or smart phone; there will be many photo opportunities you will want to take advantage of along the way.

Picked by: Trinity Shepherd
Park Naturalist at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
Where: Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Trail: Rock Garden Trail
Length: 1.75 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Rock Garden Trail starts along the Battleship Rock Trail. It follows the ridge out above the Hemlock Lodge and takes the long way around, ending beneath the Natural Bridge. This is an enjoyable walk through a forested hillside of sandstone rock boulders covered with moss an ferns. This trail is one of the best at the park for bird watchers and plant lovers.

Picked by: Brian Gasdorf
Park Naturalist at Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Where: Big Bone Lick State Historic Site
Trail: Big Bone Creek Trail
Length: 1 Mile
Difficulty: Easy

Big Bone Creek Trail is a partially paved trail that begins at the park’s visitor center. The trail meanders over the “jelly ground” once trod by mammoths and mastodons – the original semi-swamp quagmire now growing with brush, wildflowers, and relict, Pleistocene tree species. The pathway begins with an Ice Age diorama showcasing several of the large Pleistocene animals that would have been encountered in the park 12-25,000 years ago and passes by the park’s largest salt-sulfur spring, the attractant that first drew the giant beasts to the site. Interpretive panels at trailside describe various archaeological, paleontological, and historical events that took place there. Scenic Big Bone Creek itself courses alongside the trail for most of its length, providing a pleasant backdrop for a wide assortment of photos of native plants, animals, and interesting landscapes.

Picked by: Dean Henson
Park Manager at Big Bone Lick State Historic Site
Where: John James Audubon State Park
Trail: Warbler Road Trail
Length: .7 mile
Difficulty: Moderate

Warbler Road is a wide, paved trail that winds back into the park’s nature preserve and marks the starting points for all the other trails in the preserve. The pavement makes it possible for strollers, wheelchairs, and those with limited mobility to still enjoy our nature preserve. Group hikes are also perfect for Warbler Road because the width and length of the road make it easy to keep a group together and interacting with one another. It’s also great to have the option of the paved trail after heavy wind, rain, or snow. There’s still plenty of opportunity for spotting wildlife, tree species, birds, and more. Warbler Road is my favorite because it offers everyone the chance to discover nature.

Picked by: Beth Tompkins
Business Manager at John James Audubon State Park
Where: Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
Trail: Clifty Creek Trail & Indian Bluff Trail
Length: .5 mile
Difficulty: Easy

Recommended to folks visiting Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park is a combination of two trails, the Clifty Creek Trail and the Indian Bluff Trail, to make a loop that will bring them back to the lodge.

The trail will lead you through a bottom land hardwood forest complete with an understory of Paw-Paw and ending in a beautiful stand of Giant River Cane. At the end of the Clifty Creek Trail the hikers will be able to see the park’s 18-hole golf course. Across the road you’ll be able to see the trailhead for the Indian Bluff trail. The Indian Bluff Trail is one of my favorite trails on the park. The trail has a beautiful sandstone cliff line which the hikers can actually walk underneath towards the middle of the trail. It is a great place for group photographs. As the cliff to your left gets lower you’ll come to a large boulder on your right. Within this boulder is the park’s only known natural arch called “Indian Window.” The trail descends through an upland deciduous forest where it ends at the road that leads to the cottages and the golf course. I enjoy hiking both trails together because they are very close together but have different habitats.

It is not handicap accessible, but it is an easy trail. I’ve led this hike may times with senior groups, school groups, and families with young children. It will take approximately 45 minutes to walk.

Picked by: Rebecca Clark
Naturalist and Recreation Supervisor at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
Where: Lake Barkley State Resort Park
Trail: Blue Spring Trail
Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

The trailhead is located on the path leading to Little River Lodge. This a great trail for running, hiking and wildlife viewing. A seated viewing area is located near the end of the trail. This spot allows an open area for bird watching. The diversity of trees and wildlife make this my favorite trail. The trail is home is to some of the oldest and largest trees on the park. One neat blast from the past is the mural pictured here. Designed over 30 years ago, it had faded but due to the skills of the Lake Barkley Friends Group, it was brought back to life.

Picked by: Nick Edmonds
Programs Leader at Lake Barkley State Resort Park

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