John James Audubon State Park Trails
ALERT: Pets are not permitted on the John James Audubon State Park hiking trails – except for the Eagle Glen Pet Trail and Audubon Wetlands Trail. Most trails at Audubon are within a dedicated Kentucky State Nature Preserve, and pets are not permitted as a part of the management guidelines.
Audubon Wetlands - Island Loop Trail
Access the Island Loop Trail from within Audubon Wetlands, located on Wolf Hills Road, just north of John James Audubon State Park. A rocked pathway from the parking lot leads through floodplain forest to a 750-ft. boardwalk over the wetland, immersing visitors into prime habitat for spotting a variety of wetland flora and fauna. Continue from the boardwalk into more forested area along the .94-mile earthen path of Island Loop Trail. Flat, easy terrain of this 1.5-mile round-trip wetland walk is ADA accessible. Leashed pets and bicycles are welcome. Use of mosquito repellent recommended. Grounds are open dawn to dusk, but may be closed periodically due to floodwaters. Some areas could be muddy or inaccessible following wet weather conditions.
For the more experienced hiker, the Backcountry Trail provides welcome solitude. This trail twists and turns as it travels over hilly terrain in the rich northeastern part of the Nature Preserve. A great diversity of tree species and wildlife can be observed, as well as a magnificent display of spring wildflowers. Narrow pathways, exposed tree roots, and steady inclines/descents may challenge hiking skills. Although the Backcountry Trail is 1.6 miles in length, it must be accessed using Warbler Road or the Wilderness Lake Trail. Depending upon the route taken, the combined distance of this hike could be 3 to 3.5 miles.
Deer Ridge Trail
DIFFICULTY: EASY - MODERATE
This enjoyable hike connects the Museum Trail and Kentucky Coffeetree Trail. Follow the Museum Trail to the Deer Ridge entrance. As you hike, you will find this trail is aptly named, for you are traversing high atop a ridge which follows the edge of the Audubon property. Despite a little traffic noise from the nearby highway, hikers can observe deer and can frequently hear songbirds along this trail. The path takes a right turn and steeply descends through a tunnel of Pawpaw trees to twist around a corner and emerge upon the fern-filled forest floor. While descending the ridge, hikers should be aware of potentially exposed tree roots and uneven terrain. After crossing Sammy’s Bridge, Deer Ridge Trail ends and connects with Kentucky Coffeetree Trail, where a right turn will lead you back towards the Museum.
Eagle Glen Pet Trail
Eagle Glen Pet Trail is the only trail in Audubon State Park which is not contained within State Nature Preserve boundaries. Therefore, Eagle Glen is the only trail which allows leashed pets to be taken into the woods with their owners. This loop was designed and installed through an Eagle Scout Project in 1996, and provides an enjoyable excursion into the forested hills of the Park. The trailhead can be found at the end of the Museum parking lot. After proceeding downhill, the hiker soon comes to a split in the trail, which marks the beginning of the loop. This 0.9-mile trail is hilly and moderately difficult due to several staircases. An alternative entrance to the trail can be found on the main road, a short distance from the gated Park entryway. If accessing this trailhead, please park vehicles in the small lot near the gate.
Kentucky Coffeetree Trail
DIFFICULTY: EASY - MODERATE
The beautiful 0.4-mile Kentucky Coffeetree Trail must be accessed from other trails. To begin your hike, follow Warbler Road about 0.3-miles and take a left (this begins Wilderness Lake Trail). You will walk to an intersection of three trails—take the middle branch to proceed onto Coffeetree. From here you will traipse along a ridgetop and can observe far down the hillsides, where you’re sure to see springtime wildflowers. The Trail then leads you steadily downward toward a lush valley. Turn left and follow along the streambed. This area tends to get muddy, which makes it a great spot to observe animal tracks left by deer and raccoon. Pass through the big tree, cross the bridge, and veer left to join Pawpaw Valley Trail. You’ll soon find yourself back at Warbler Road. Your combined hike distance will be approx. 0.9-miles.
King Benson Trail
King Benson Trail is named for a former naturalist that worked at Audubon State Park. This relatively easy 0.3-mile trail has illustrated interpretive signs that refer to the natural history of the Park, as well as the artwork of John James Audubon. From the trail map kiosk at the end of the Main Office/Welcome Center parking lot, follow the series of steps to the right and climb to the top of a grassy knoll. King Benson Trail then descends into a peaceful, forested valley filled with tall Tulip Trees, young Pawpaw Trees, and plenty of Spicebush. Once the trail emerges from the valley and joins Warbler Road, hikers will take a left and follow the road back to the parking area, or will choose to embark upon other trails.
The Museum Trail is a short 0.25-mile loop which begins behind the Audubon Museum. This is the easiest trail at the Park and features interpretive signs along its course. The Nature Center staff often utilizes the path’s amphitheater-style outdoor classroom for programming. A trail-side view of the Museum’s Observation Room provides a glimpse of not only birds, but other forest animals as they frequent the birdseed feeders and water feature near the building. To walk this trail, follow the service road to the right of the Museum and then turn left to go behind the Museum. You will see the trail head sign. Most of this trail is paved. Connections to Deer Ridge and Pawpaw Valley Trails can be accessed.
Pawpaw Valley Trail
DIFFICULTY: EASY - MODERATE
This connecting trail provides a short hike along a lush streambed valley, drawing its moniker from the many young Pawpaw trees growing in the area. To access this path, you may enter from the Museum Trail and proceed down a slowly curving path on the hillside. A set of stairs and a footbridge lead to the fern-filled valley floor. Continue straight through the valley, passing by the bridge which marks the beginning of Woodpecker and Kentucky Coffeetree Trails. Then proceed toward a steady incline to the trailhead. Make sure to stop for a close-up view of the magnificent Tulip Tree at the top of the trail! From here you can follow the gravel service road left to join Warbler Road, or right to arrive in the corner of the Museum employee parking lot.
Scenic Overlook Trail
The Scenic Overlook Trail is a short trail of 0.22-miles that diverges from the Wilderness Lake Trail at the Civilian Conservation Corps stone shelter. This trail descends slowly through the Nature Preserve forest to a rewarding view of Wilderness Lake from above. Many turtles can be observed sunning themselves upon logs in the water. The Kingfisher’s rattling call can often be heard in this area of the lake, and other water-loving birds may be spotted as well. Hikers will have to return using the same route.
This road is named after the 20 different species of warblers that can be seen and heard at the Park in spring and summer. Warblers are small, colorful migratory birds that visit during migration, or inhabit the Park during the breeding season. A good route for birdwatching! This road is also an enjoyable walk to see early spring wildflowers. Many of our trails either begin or end at some point on this paved road. Although it serves as a connector between our parking area and trailheads, many visitors find it to be a rewarding and challenging hike by itself. This 0.7-mile road begins at the Main Office/Welcome Center parking lot, proceeds up and down hills, and ends at the Wilderness Lake trailhead. It is open to foot traffic only.
Wilderness Lake Trail
Wilderness Lake Trail boasts a beautiful 13-acre lake nestled deep within the Nature Preserve. To hike this one-mile trail, begin at the Main Office/Welcome Center parking area and proceed about 0.3-mile along Warbler Road. Turn left at the Wilderness Lake trailhead and walk 0.1-miles. Upon arriving at an intersection of three trails, veer to the right. After a short downward traverse, the trail will turn left at a stone shelter that was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and recently restored through an Eagle Scout Project. You will follow a ridge, eventually descending toward the lake using a steep staircase, and will emerge upon a grassy levee. The trail continues across several bridges as it follows the lake perimeter, providing a good opportunity for wildlife-viewing. A variety of birds including Great Blue Herons, Green Herons and Belted Kingfishers can be observed along the bank as well as other wildlife including White-tailed Deer, beaver, turtles, fish, and frogs. The trail is also one of the best in the Park for observing a diversity of spring wildflowers. Near the end of this trail, there will be a steady incline leading back to Warbler Road. Follow the road back to the parking area. Total combined hiking distance is about 2 miles.
DIFFICULTY: EASY - MODERATE
Audubon State Park is home to seven species of woodpeckers. Many of these birds make use of the habitat surrounding the trail, and can often be seen in this area of the woods. Other wildlife may be spotted along the ridges and in the valleys nearby. To hike this path, you must access it from other trails. Begin your hike on Warbler Road by the Park Main Office/Welcome Center. Take the first left (a short gravel service road) to connect with Pawpaw Valley Trail, which descends to a lush valley. Turn right to cross the bridge and follow the long steady climb up Woodpecker Trail. The 0.4-mile trail ends at the top of the hill. You must choose a path of return: Looping back to the valley by turning left along Kentucky Coffeetree Trail, will lead you back to your starting point, for a total of about 1 mile. By turning right along Wilderness Lake Trail and another right onto Warbler Road, your steps will lead you to the Park Main Office/Welcome Center, for a total hike of about 0.9-miles.