Kentucky is home to countless trails for hikers, horseback riders, cyclists and those who prefer to travel via water. But did you know that our state has a collection of certified “Trail Towns” that serve as gateways to outdoor adventure in the Bluegrass State? Trail Towns are a part of an organized system that aims to make Kentucky’s natural beauty accessible to all who wish to explore it. They also offer essentials for nature-lovers, such as dining, lodging and outfitters. These 16 towns, scattered across the state, all provide a sense of adventure, as well as a respite from your time wandering the trails.
The small town of Berea is a lovely place to visit and when you consider the nearby trail system, it really is an all-around package. The Pinnacle Trails will take you to this stunning view and there are many other adventures to seek out in the area.
Columbia is situated in southern Kentucky, along the banks of Russell Creek. The Creek connects to Green River and Green River State Park, which provides plenty of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
3. Cumberland, Benham & Lynch
These three towns within Harlan County have joined together as one trail town that is chockfull of adventure. Perfectly situated between two mountain systems, popular trail options in this area include the Pine Mountain Scenic Trail as well as the breathtaking Kingdom Come State Park.
4. Dawson Springs
Dawson Springs, located in western Kentucky, was the first official Trail Town. Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park has scenic trails, a lovely lake and endless adventure.
5. Elkhorn City
If you're looking for true adventure, then the trail town of Elkhorn City should be on your list. Located near the Virginia border, it's a regional destination for exciting whitewater activities, as well as other activity throughout the "Grand Canyon of the South."
Jamestown is known as the gateway to Lake Cumberland and offers a variety of outdoor adventure. If you're looking for a water trail, try paddling the 16 miles of the Cumberland River Paddle Trail.
Eastern Kentucky welcomed its first trail town in 2013 with Livingston's certification. The most popular trail in the area, the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, passes through just outside of town and is just one way to enjoy this diverse and picturesque area.
London is known for many outdoor activities, but has really made strides to support the cycling community. The area is perfect for scenic road cycling and the outfitters in town are helpful and knowledgeable.
Just outside of Manchester, you'll find the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National Forest, which has one of the most popular ATV trails in the region. The town is also home to many creeks and rivers, perfect for paddling along a waterway trail.
McKee is located in the hills of Daniel Boone National Forest and could not be more serene. This area is an outdoor paradise, but is especially ideal for horse lovers with the popular Triple R Ranch.
Morehead definitely earned its distinction as a trail town by rerouting the Sheltowee Trace Trail to run right through downtown. The area is also home to Cave Run Lake, which has outstanding fishing and plenty of activity nearby.
12. Munfordville Green River
The main attraction in Munfordville is the popular Green River. This scenic river makes the perfect paddle trail and while you're in town you have to make sure and visit Kentucky's very own Stonehenge.
13. Olive Hill
Just outside of Olive Hill is Carter Caves State Resort Park. You can actually take a trail directly from town into the park and enjoy all of the opportunities for exploring this unique area.
Cutting right through Royalton is the popular Dawkins Line Rail Trail. This former railway has been converted into a trail system that will eventually include 36 miles of adventure, with Royalton as the midpoint.
Slade may be the most majestic of the trail towns, as it includes the infamous Natural Bridge. This area is a must-visit in Kentucky and the trail to reach the top and then the adventure to cross it are both exciting Kentucky experiences.
Stearns may be well known for its railway and scenic train rides, but the area is also bursting with outdoor adventure. From Stearns, you'll have easy access to both the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Stearns District of the Daniel Boone National Forest, making it one of the most diverse and adventurous of all of Kentucky's trail towns.
Did you know about Kentucky’s Trail Towns? How many have you visited? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know about your favorite Kentucky adventure!