Louisville is a city bursting with art, music, sports, and delicious food… but sometimes you need a break from all of that action. If you want to get some exercise and be outside, but only have time for a day hike, check out these 12 awesome trails that are only an hour (or less) from Louisville!
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12. Cherokee Park
Want to get in a decent hike, but don’t have time to drive very far? Located in right in Highlands, only ten minutes from downtown, is Cherokee Park. One of four parks in Louisville designed by Frederick L. Olmsted, this park has a 2.4-mile loop with designated lanes for cars and pedestrians.
If you want to feel like you are farther away from the city, explore one of the many trails that weave through the center of the park. You will get some magnificent views of Beargrass
Creek, both from atop a wooded hill or up close as you descend further into the valley.
11. The Parklands of Floyd’s Fork— Turkey Run Park
There is definitely no shortage of hiking options in the Parklands, but the newly opened Turkey Run Park boasts one of the most extensive collection of hiking trails. Head to East Louisville, about 30 minutes from downtown, and try any combination of these great trails to get your perfect distance of hiking in.
Don't miss the Wild Hyacinth Trail! At 1.5 miles, it is fairly short and allows you to try other trails as well. The Wild Hyacinth Trail is rated moderately difficult and follows Turkey Run Creek for a large portion of the trail. Even the trailhead is cool; it’s home to the Ben Stout House, which is an early 1800s home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
10. Iroquois Park Overlook
Iroquois Park in South Louisville is about 20 minutes from downtown and is home to one of the most beautiful views in the city. Also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, it is a 3.2-mile loop with various other hiking trails slicing through the middle. The most popular spot is the Overlook at the summit of Iroquois Park. Once you reach the top, you will have a stunning view of the Louisville skyline and the Ohio River Valley.
9. Mahan Nature Preserve Trails
With 8.5 total miles of trails, there are many options at the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve in Goshen, which is only 30 minutes from Louisville. Pick just one for a short and easy walk, or combine multiple for a more rigorous hike.
The Cross Country Trail and Watershed Trail connect to each other and are both of moderate difficulty, making for a decent workout. The Cross Country trail has many grassy meadows, but is also quite hilly. The Watershed Trail travels through an old forest and along Huckleberry Creek. While you are there, a popular stop is the Mahan Manor, a 200-year-old colonial home.
8. Taylorsville Lake State Park— Taylorsville Lake Trail
There are tons of things to do in Taylorsville Lake State Park, located about 50 minutes outside of Louisville, ranging from water sports to hiking. The Taylorsville Lake Trail is a 4.5-mile loop near Mt. Eden, and it is a nice hike through the forest that will lead you to a scenic lake. Be on the lookout for horses (and horse droppings), as the trail is also used for riding.
7. Fort Duffield Historic Park Trails
History buffs will love this one! Located 40 minutes from Louisville in West Point (close to Fort Knox), Fort Duffield was a Union stronghold in the Civil War. There are ten miles of trails and the original fort is still standing! There are steep elevation changes, so make sure to peer through the trees to get a nice view of the Salt River.
6. Tioga Falls Trail
Located between West Point and Fort Knox, roughly 40 minutes from Louisville, is the town of Muldraugh. Here you will find the Tioga Falls Trail. It is a 2-mile loop that is pretty steep in the beginning, and this trail is known to be a bit rugged. The first mile will take you past some cool historical spots, including a couple of train trestles (trains still run on these, so it’s not a smart idea to walk on them), and an old spring house next to a creek. After about a mile, you will reach Tioga Falls, which is about 130 feet high!
5. Jefferson Memorial Forest— Red Trail
Jefferson Memorial Forest is full of great day hikes and is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Louisville. The Red Trail will give you a great 4.8-mile workout, not to mention a journey across two valleys that lose and regain 200 feet in elevation. Your glutes will definitely be burning!
The trail starts at the Horine parking lot and begins easily enough as it traverses a ridgeline. At trail marker H14, the path begins its first descent into a lush valley with a stream cutting through it. Before heading this way, keep walking straight for a few hundred feet, and you will find the Horine family cemetery. There is also 3.1-mile shortcut for this trail, which is clearly marked on the trail markers.
4. Charlestown State Park— Trails #6 and #3
If you head north for about 35 minutes into Indiana, you will find Charlestown State Park. Trail #6 is a favorite, as it follows along the Ohio River and has remarkable views. It is only a 2.3-mile loop, but the beginning of it can be quite strenuous as you climb the ridge. There are smaller streams with picturesque waterfalls and several small bridges.
If you are not quite tired out when you finish the #6 loop, try trail #3. It is 2.2-miles long and is a bit easier, plus you will get to see some pretty awesome historical sites. It walks along Fourteen Mile Creek, which eventually empties into the Ohio River. Along the trail, you will encounter a bridge that leads to Rose Island, which was an amusement park in the early 1900s. Rose Island was damaged beyond repair in a 1937 flood, but remnants of the old park (including a creepy abandoned swimming pool) are still around today.
3. Bernheim Forest— Elm Lick Trail
In Clermont, roughly 25 minutes outside of Louisville, is Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Recently opened in 2013, the Elm Lick Trail is a 5-mile loop that traverses up to the tops of knobs and then back down into Elm Lick Valley. There are quite a few ups and downs, so it is a challenging hike, but you will get great views at the top and a few scenic creek crossings in the valley.
Bonus: You will pass the Canopy Tree Walk on your way to or from the Elm Lick trailhead, so if you are looking for a nice warm up or cool down walk, this is the perfect place! The boardwalk extends into the treetops and gives you a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding forest below.
2. Jefferson Memorial Forest— Siltstone Trail
Another gem in Jefferson Memorial Forest, the Siltstone Trail, is one of the oldest and most scenic hikes in the area, but also one of the most strenuous. It is 6.7 miles out and back, so make sure you are prepared to hike 13.5 miles if you want to do the whole thing in one trip! You’ll be traversing the tallest knobs in Jefferson County, so enjoy the views and catch your breath after the 300-foot ascent to the top. The trail runs through a dense forest, so it is easy to forget you are just a 25-minute drive from the city.
1. Bernheim Forest— Millennium Trail
At 13.3 miles, the Millennium Trail is Bernheim’s longest and most strenuous hike. Allow 6-7 hours to complete it, and all hikers must register at the Visitor’s Center before heading out. This trail is heavily wooded and changes elevation several times, so it will definitely get your blood pumping. The official trailhead is at the Guerrilla Hollow Picnic Area, but the trail crosses a road several times, giving you the opportunity to cut the trek short if you want.
There are dozens of hikes near Louisville, but these 12 are perfect for a quick escape from the city and are sure to wear you out! You will feel like you got a mini vacation…without the travel time!