serene lake with hills and orange flowers

Trails Less Traveled

Trail Recommendations

Kentucky State Parks remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with limited operations during this time. Hiking while practicing social distancing (look, don't touchie) is one way to stay healthy while enjoying the outdoors. While Kentucky State Parks contain over 300 miles of hiking trails, many of the popular destinations are already at capacity with visitors. Here are some recommendations for walking paths and hiking trails less traveled, to those living within a short drive of these parks. Should you arrive at a trail to find the parking lot already full, we ask you to try another trail or destination instead. To download a checklist of 'Things to Find' along the trail CLICK HERE.



milk weed flowers by lakeCarter Caves State Resort Park
4Cs Trail (Carter Caves Cross Country Trail)
One of our longer hiking trails that visits the park’s backcountry. Highlight along the trail include two suspension bridges, Shangra La Arch, Fern Bridge, views of Smoky Valley Lake and some neat coves that show some nice limestone cliffs. The trail is 8.3 miles long and can be considered strenuous with some steep elevation changes.  Plan for about 6 hours to complete this hike and make sure you pack enough water and snacks. Hikers should have experience in longer hikes and navigation of trails.  Parking for this trail is at the Welcome Center.


paved path along Mississippi RiverColumbus-Belmont State Park
Enjoy the natural beauty of Columbus-Belmont State Park by taking a 2.5-mile History Hike around the grounds, nature trail, and historic earthworks.  There are interpretive signs along the way.  A 1-mile paved walkway with some change in elevation leads to beautiful views of the Mississippi River.  The 1.5-mile historic trail follows a natural terrain leading through the site of a Civil War fortification. 


river view of Blue Bend Trail on foggy morningCumberland Falls State Resort Park
The Blue Bend Trail loop offers a diverse change of scenery. Half of the hike is down by the Cumberland river while the other half is at higher elevation. Marked as Trail #10 on the park map, it is 4.5 miles round trip making it one of the longer trails. The length and elevation change makes this a  moderate to strenuous outing, but you can choose to hike just the section that runs along the river by taking the trail head to the left right after you cross the Gatliff Bridge. To do the whole loop, start at the other end of the loop across the street from Eagle Falls trail head just up the road from the Gatliff Bridge. Along your hike you will pass through an area where there use to be an old homestead, and thus, an abundance of Jonquils are found in the spring. No matter what option you choose, this trail is beautiful!


golf cart path between grassy areaKenlake State Resort Park
The closed Kenlake golf course is another park trail that can be used for some outdoor recreation.  The paved 1.5-mile path that starts on top of a hill descend into a valley that takes you up and down again to a beautiful view of Letbetter Bay on what used to be the fourth green.  There is a steep hike out to the finishing elevation that runs parallel to the main entrance road before finishing at the Ranger station.  The total trail length is 1.5 miles with a total elevation change of 180 feet.  


foggy, lush, tree-lined path Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park
The .5-mile Sail Trail (1 mile round trip) begins next to the park convention center. Here you will descend down a small forested hill into a bottomland forest with scenic views of a Kentucky Lake cove. This is followed by forest of pawpaw, sycamore, birch, oak, and pine. A slight elevation leads into a wonderful spot for bird viewing followed by mixed pine trees before it ends at the intersection of the Lakeshore Trail. The mostly flat terrain with some gently rolling hills is a perfect trail for all ages looking for an easy hike.


The Sail Trail connects to the Lakeshore trail or to the 2-mile long horse trail for lengthier options. Park at the convention center or the horse stables.



wooden bridge along Kincaid Lake's Ironwood TrailKincaid Lake State Park

During this time when Kentuckians, especially children, have become removed from the natural word, it has become the role of entities such as state parks to reconnect us with our natural heritage. Kincaid Lake's 1.5-mile Ironwood Trail has a multitude of ecological concepts to bring people back to nature. Land that was once cleared for agriculture now hosts early succession evergreen species being replaced by intermediate succession broadleaf deciduous species as the forest evolves. But that doesn't mean you won't still spot remnants of the farm that once thrived here. In addition, water loving plants that dominate a floodplain forest will be on display as you follow a meandering stream. Kincaid Lake’s ironwood trail tells a wonderful story for those that take the time to discover it.


moss covered ground among trees next to cemeteryOld Mulkey Meetinghouse State Historic Site
The Jackson Memorial trail is 1/8 mile from the trailhead to the turn around and back. Short, for any experienced hiker, but perfect for the family just wanting to get out and explore. There is a gradual decline from the trailhead to the turn around, so you need to be prepared for that gradual ascent upon your return. There are benches along the way if you need a breather, and while sitting you can imagine what the original Meetinghouse looked like as you look into the now overgrown clearing where it once stood. The terrain is good, but too rough for a wheelchair to handle. On your way out consider taking a few laps around the cemetery. Those stones have stories to tell, as do the interpretative signage scattered throughout the area. 

small wooden bridge along trailWaveland State Historic Site
If you are looking for a tranquil stroll, enjoy nature that will take you back to history at Waveland State Historic Site.  Waveland features a quaint .25-mile trail featuring the old mill house structure, foot bridges, natural spring and small pond. While you are there, explore two beautifully maintained Lexington Garden Club gardens which includes a perennial garden and an herb garden. Always a favorite for families to explore with their children.