Sometimes people assume that long, strenuous hikes are the best hikes. However, that’s not always true. Short and easy hikes can be equally mind-blowing. If you’re looking for some hiking trails where you’re guaranteed to see some pure natural beauty while getting in a pleasant walk instead of feeling like your legs are going to fall off, then check out these 12 easy hikes in Kentucky.
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1. Chimney Top Trail, Red River Gorge, Slade
This short trail is less than a half mile, but has a gorgeous overlook. This is an ideal place to watch the sun rise or set, and the view is especially mesmerizing if there’s fog lingering over the trees.
2. Cumberland Falls Trail, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Corbin
This half-mile trail is the most popular route to view Cumberland Falls. This paved path starts in front of Dupont Lodge and winds down to some splendid viewing areas for the Falls. There are some stairs on this trail, but other than that, it’s a good hike for all levels.
3. Original Trail, Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Slade
If you’re in the Red River Gorge area, this is a must-see attraction. Located within Natural Bridge State Resort Park, this hike is probably the most popular in the area. It does gain elevation, which can propose a challenge for some, but the trail is wide, smooth, and well-maintained. It will lead you to Natural Bridge, which is a huge natural arch. The trail technically ends right underneath the arch, but you can go on top of it if you pass through the arch, and look for a narrow passageway, nicknamed “Fat Man’s Misery.” This will lead to stairs that will take you to the top of the arch, where you will have a stunning view over Red River Gorge.
4. Fire Tower Loop, Bernheim Forest, Clermont
This half-mile trail leads you to a steel fire tower, which is the highest point in Bernheim Forest. At 48 feet high, you are guaranteed to have outstanding views of the surrounding area if you climb to the top. You won’t believe how far you are able to see.
5. Laurel Branch Trail, Breaks Interstate Park, Elkhorn City
Breaks Interstate Park is unique in that it spans over the state border to Virginia. Over on the Kentucky side near Elkhorn City is the Laurel Branch Trail, which is 1.25 miles. The trail follows along a stream for most of the way, and you’ll eventually reach Grassy Creek. You’ll also get to see The Notches, which are some amazing rock formations located in the park. The last half mile of the hike does get a bit more difficult due to relatively steep terrain.
6. Cedar Sink Trail, Mammoth Cave National Park, Park City
Cedar Sink Trail is a 0.8-mile out and back trail in the Mammoth Cave area. While most people come to Mammoth Cave to explore underground, it’s definitely worth staying above ground for this hike. You’ll descend deep down into the forest, and this hike is beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. You’ll also see some water-filled sinkholes and caves. While the hike is quick and easy, be prepared for some stairs at the very end.
7. Hematite Lake Trail, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Golden Pond
This trail in the Land Between the Lakes Area takes you around Hematite Lake. It’s about 2.2 miles, but it stays mostly level, plus there are plenty of places to take breaks and observe your surroundings. The lake presents a great opportunity to spot animals such as beavers and water birds. They even have what they call “concrete lily pads” to use as stepping stones.
8. Chained Rock Trail, Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Pineville
This trail is less than half a mile, and takes you to a very well-known spot in Pineville: the chained rock. Stories used to say that an ominous boulder on top of Pine Mountain was chained to keep it from rolling down and crushing the town of Pineville, but in reality the rock wasn’t actually chained until 1933. Once at the top, you’ll have breathtaking views of Pineville, and on clear days you can even see a ridge of Cumberland Mountain.
9. Iroquois Park Overlook, Iroquois Park, Louisville
If you’re in Louisville and want to do a nice hike without leaving the city, try this one. The overlook in Iroquois Park just reopened after having work done on it, so you definitely don’t want to miss the views of the city you’ll have from up there. It’s about two miles from the bottom of the park if you take the roads, but you can use some of the trails that cut through the woods as a short cut. People can also drive their cars up for most of the way and then only have to walk about a quarter-mile to the overlook. However, it’s important to note that motorists can only drive to the overlook from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from April to October.
10. Sassafras Trail, Jenny Wiley State Park, Prestonsburg
This 0.75-mile hike is great for kids, as Jenny Wiley State Park provides an interpretive trail guide that you can download
The guide highlights important landmarks and types of vegetation you might see, with a lot of interesting information to go along with it. It also winds along Dewey Lake, which makes for some scenic water views.
11. Tom Wallace Lake Loop, Jefferson Memorial Forest, Louisville
If you enjoy fishing, this is the trail for you. This loop is 0.6 miles and encompasses Tom Wallace Lake. There are many spots to cast a line, including a fishing pier that juts out into the lake. It’s quite likely you’ll see other people fishing during your hike as well.
12. Raven Bridge Trail, Carter Caves State Resort Park, Olive Hill
This 0.7-mile trail is a direct route to Raven Bridge, which is an impressive natural sandstone arch. You’ll enjoy mostly level hiking through a pretty forest out to this striking arch.
These 12 hikes in Kentucky may not be that much of a challenge, but they challenge any long and difficult hike with their sheer beauty and abundance of things to do and see.
Has anyone been on any of these trails? What other easy hikes should people put on their outdoor bucket list?