12 Scenic Trails for Hiking in Kentucky

Looking for scenic places to go hiking in Kentucky? We’ve got you covered! Kentucky may not be well-known as a hiker’s paradise, but this state has an incredible amount of incredible natural scenery waiting to be discovered!

Mountains, waterfalls, ancient rock formations, and fascinating underground caverns are just some of the natural wonders that are found along the many hiking trails in Kentucky. This southern state is full of rich history and an abundance of natural beauty that can rival some of the best outdoor destinations in the country!

Whether you’re an avid hiker or a beginner, there are trails for hiking in Kentucky for every adventure level! From leisurely strolls on paved pathways to challenging climbs in the wilderness and everything in between, there is truly an adventure waiting for everyone in the beautiful state of Kentucky!

Discover the beauty of the bluegrass state and see why you should consider Kentucky for your next outdoor adventure in the South! Keep reading as we explore the most scenic places for hiking in Kentucky!

Best hikes in kentucky

12 Scenic Trails for Hiking in Kentucky

Eagle Falls

Located within Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in southern Kentucky is Eagle Falls Trail. This 3-mile round-trip trail features two beautiful waterfalls and has been voted the best Kentucky hiking trail!

This trail not only leads to its namesake Eagle Falls, but also to an alternate viewpoint of the extremely popular Cumberland Falls which is often known as the Niagra of the South. This hike is a great way to enjoy spectacular views of Cumberland Falls without the crowds and enjoy a lesser-known bonus waterfall as well!

The trail follows the Cumberland River alongside cliffs and under rock overhangs offering stunning viewpoints along the way. After reaching Eagle Falls, hikers can stop to soak up the peaceful surroundings and even walk behind the falls for a unique perspective. Be sure to save some energy for the steep uphill climb back to the parking area! It is truly one of the prettiest waterfalls in Kentucky!

Best hikes in kentucky

Double Arch Trail at Red River Gorge

Did you know that Kentucky is home to one of the highest concentrations of natural arches in the United States, behind only Utah and Arizona? The Red River Gorge alone is home to over 100 natural arches and boasts some of the most fascinating hiking trails in Kentucky!

The Double Arch Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. The hike starts out on a flat gravel road with not much to see, but the view at the end is worth it! After descending down a few stone steps, you will reach the trail’s namesake, Double Arch, along with an expansive view across the Red River Gorge.

From the overlook underneath the arch, visitors can take in the views over the treetops and catch a glimpse of other rock features such as Courthouse Rock and Haystack Rock. This viewpoint is especially beautiful when fall foliage turns the landscape into a sea of red and gold, however, this hike is accessible any time of year!

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Best hikes in kentucky

Tri State Peak Trail

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park sits on the border of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. This park is comprised of stunning scenery, rich history, fascinating geological formations, and some of the best trails for hiking in Kentucky!

There are over 80-miles of hiking trails to choose from within Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. One of the most popular trails within the park is Tri-State Peak Trail. As the name suggests, the highlight of this 2-mile trail is the point at the top where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee meet!

The Tri-State Peak Trail trail takes hikers through a beautiful forested area and past remnants of civil war history on the way up to the peak. This is one of the best places to hike in Kentucky for history lovers as there is quite a lot of Native American and Civil War history in the area! Be sure to stop at the visitor center to learn more about the park’s history!

Best hikes in kentucky

Van Hook Falls Trail

This trail located within the Danial Boone National Forest is one of the best hiking trails with waterfalls in Kentucky! Van Hook Falls Trail is a moderate trail with incredible natural scenery that makes it one of the most beautiful hikes in the state!

This 5-mile round-trip trail winds its way through pristine woodlands as it passes several waterfalls, streams, and interesting rock formations. The highlight is the trail’s namesake, the spectacular 30 foot Van Hook Falls. This waterfall as well as the others on the trail are best seen after heavy rainfall.

Enjoy a picnic next to the falls or continue hiking to explore more of the Daniel Boone National Forest. There are many other trails waiting to be discovered nearby. Van Hook Falls Trail is a small portion of the 300-mile Sheltowee Trace Trail that is known for being home to some of the best hiking in Kentucky.

Best hikes in kentucky

Rock Bridge Trail

Rock Bridge Trail is one of the most diverse trails for hiking in Kentucky! This trail is located inside the Daniel Boone National Forest within Red River Gorge and features both a natural rock arch and a waterfall!

This 1.3-mile loop trail is mostly paved or gravel and winds through dense hemlock forest before descending down stone steps into a ravine. Along the way, hikers will pass a cave formation known as “rock house” before arriving at Creation Falls, a beautiful 12-foot cascade that flows into a small pool.

After the waterfall, hikers can continue to the highlight of the trail, Rock Bridge, a fascinating natural sandstone bridge that spans Swift Camp Creek. Though Red River Gorge is home to many arches, Rock Bridge the only one that crosses a body of water. Enjoy a picnic under one of the shady trees next to the bridge before making the short trek back to the parking area.

Best hikes in kentucky
Photo Credit: CiEll via Shutterstock.com

Chain Rock Trail at Pine Mountain

Located in the very south of the state is Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Kentucky’s oldest state park! This park is a hiker’s dream with over 12 miles of trails to explore and is one of the best places for hiking in Kentucky! One of the most popular trails at Pine Mountain is Chain Rock Trail.

Chain Rock Trail, which is aptly named for the rock with a chain on it at the top of the mountain. The rock actually isn’t a rock at all, it’s just a natural feature of the mountain. The chain was put there in 1933 to appease the worried citizens of the town below, Pineville, who thought the rock would one day roll off the mountain into town.

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The trail is only one-mile round-trip and is a fairly easy downhill walk on the way down to the rock. However, the climb back up becomes much more strenuous and there are benches along the way to rest. The panoramic view from the top of Pineville and the surrounding landscape is well worth the hike.

Best hikes in kentucky

Green River Bluffs Trail

Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the best places for hiking in Kentucky! After exploring the fascinating caves underground, spend some time above ground hiking the park’s many trails to experience the unique natural scenery of the area!

One of the best hikes within Mammoth Caves National Park, the Green River Bluffs Route is actually a combination of a few different trails and many of the individual trails are fairly short. A popular route is the combination of Green River Bluffs Trail, Echo River Springs Trail, Sinkhole Trail, and Heritage Trail.

This trail loop is a total of 4 miles long a features many different interesting geological features and stunning views. Some of the interesting things along the way include Dixon Cave, natural sinkholes, and a bright blue bubbling river that emerges from the cave below! This trail is a perfect addition to a guided tour inside of Mammoth Cave!

Best hikes in kentucky

Breaks Interstate Loop

Located within both Kentucky and Virginia, Breaks Interstate Park is a hiker’s paradise! This area is known as the Grand Canyon of the South and features a spectacular 5-mile gorge. The Breaks Interstate Loop Trail is one of the most unique trails for hiking in Kentucky!

Breaks Interstate Loop Trail is actually an unofficial trail that combines a few of the official trails within the park in order to experience the best of what the park has to offer. This trail is 4 miles in length and combines the Prospector’s Trail, Geological Trail, Overlook Trail, and Loop Trail.

This moderate trail features numerous overlooks to take in views of the gorge, caves to explore, and fascinating rock formations as it winds its way through the dense forest. Before leaving Breaks Interstate Park, visitors can learn about the history and geological features at the visitor center or soar over the trees on a zipline!

Best hikes in kentucky

Three Bridges Trail at Carter Caves State Resort Park

Carter Caves State Resort Park is one of the best destinations for hiking in Northern Kentucky! This park is popular for exploring the numerous underground caves it is home to, however, there are plenty of fascinating things waiting to be discovered above ground as well!

Three Bridges Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park and features, as the name suggests, 3 different natural stone bridges along the way! The trail winds through lush green forests past Smoky Bridge, Raven Bridge, Fern Bridge, as well as viewpoints overlooking Smoky Valley Lake.

The trail is 3 miles long and is considered moderate with uneven rocky terrain and stone stairs to traverse. Be sure to stop at the visitor center to learn about the geology and history of the park before heading out for this hike. For more adventures within the park, head underground on a cave tour or continue one of the many nearby trails.

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Best hikes in kentucky

Raven Run Sanctuary

Raven Run Sanctuary is home to the best hiking trails near Lexington, Kentucky! This 734-acre nature sanctuary is located just 30 minutes from downtown and is completely free to enter, making it a perfect escape from the city!

With over 10 miles of trails to explore, Raven Run Sanctuary contains some of the most interesting Kentucky hiking trails! Each trail features unique highlights such as stunning views over the Kentucky River, historic ruins of early settlers, rivers, waterfalls, and an abundance of different wildlife and plant life. Choose to hike a single trail or combine multiple trails for a complete day of adventures.

Hike the Evan’s Mill Trail with highlights that include a waterfall and the ruins of an 1830s mill, explore the Moore Homestead Trail which features a river crossing and the remnants of a historic homestead, or take in the stunning views from the Kentucky River Overlook trail. There are plenty of trails to choose from for all ages and skill levels!

Best hikes in kentucky

Original Trail at Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Natural Bridge State Resort Park is one of the best places to go hiking in Kentucky! With 22,000 acres of protected wilderness and over 20 miles of trails, there is plenty to explore!

One of the best trails to hike at Natural Bridge State Resort Park is called the Original Trail. This historic trail dates back to the 1890s when it was built by the Lexington and Eastern Railroad. The highlight of this trail is the park’s namesake, the incredible natural Natural Bridge rock formation.

The Original Trail is an easy 1-mile round-trip hike. Many hikers choose to combine The Original Trail with the Battleship Rock trail which features more unique rock formations along the way and extends the hike to 4 miles. After hiking, get a bird’s eye view of the area on the Natural Bridge Skylift!

Best hikes in kentucky

Tioga Falls Trail

The Tioga Falls Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking trails near Louisville Kentucky! This beautiful trail features one of the only waterfalls in this part of the state and is located just 34 minutes from Louisville, making for a perfect day trip from the city!

Tioga Falls plunges a staggering 130 feet down several drops and is one of the tallest waterfalls in Kentucky! The trail to reach the waterfall is only 2 miles round trip and features beautiful natural scenery as well as railroad trusses and the remnants of a historic spring house along the way.

The trail is steep and rocky in some parts but levels out before reaching the falls. After enjoying the waterfall, stop for a picnic to relax and enjoy the sounds of nature before making the trek back to the parking area. The Tioga Falls Trail is one of the best trails for hiking in Kentucky if you’re looking for a quick escape from the city and an interesting hike!

Best hikes in kentucky

As you can see, there is no shortage of incredible places to go hiking in Kentucky! We hope this article inspired you to get out and explore all the bluegrass state has to offer! For more Kentucky travel inspiration, check out our article on the best beaches in Kentucky!

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