The Bluegrass State has much to offer hikers, as hundreds of miles of designated trails traverse scenic landscapes ranging from the state of Kentucky's famous farming and equestrian countryside to the forested Appalachian Mountain foothills. To help you choose where to explore next, we've highlighted five hiking trails (based on recommendations from Trails.com and the Kentucky Department of Travel) that feature some Kentucky's most beautiful outdoor spaces.
Sheltowee Trace National Recreational Trail
Kentucky's longest trail is the Sheltowee Trace National Recreational Trail, which showcases the Cumberland Plateau at the south end the Knobs region to the north. This rugged trail runs for almost 290 miles through the Daniel Boone National Forest and is open to hikers year-round to explore in sections or its entirety.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
You can hike more than 35 miles on more than a dozen trails (which vary in length and difficulty) through the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, a picturesque area dedicated to connecting visitors with nature. The scenic trails lead hikers through gardens, hardwood forests, knobs, and valleys, with one even taking them on a canopy tree walk, and offers many chances to see local wildlife.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Dozens of trails cover almost 84 miles of ground at the Mammoth Cave National Park, giving hikers a myriad of options for exploring the park's vast outdoor areas. In addition to views of planet's longest known cave system (more than 400 miles have been explored so far), this national park treats hikers to scenes of the Green River valley and some of Kentucky's quintessential rolling hills.
North End of North/South Trail
The North End of the North/South Trail runs for 31 miles through the entire Land Between The Lakes, a National Recreation Area flanked by Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, to the Tennessee border, where it continues for another 27 miles. This portion treats hikers to scenic views of lake shorelines, remote coves, undisturbed ridgetops, dense forests, and seven natural springs.
Natural Bridge State Resort Park
A dozen trails ranging in length and difficulty run throughout Natural Bridge State Resort Park, with each leading hikers to a unique point of interest. The park's namesake geological feature is the Natural Bridge, a sandstone rock bridge that is 65 high and 78 feet long, and other popular destinations are Battleship Rock, Henson's Arch, Sand Gap, and Laurel Ridge.