1. Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve
This lovely little park is located in Louisville’s Poplar Level neighborhood and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in nature without even leaving the city! The preserve is right next to the Louisville Nature Center, where you will find some excellent information about the wildlife living here before heading out for a walk along the Red Maple Trail and White Oak Loop, which total about 1.6 miles and pass through wetlands and forested areas filled with beautiful plants and wildflowers. The Beargrass Creek Loop is a quick quarter-mile offshoot from the White Oak Nature Trail that brings you up close to a scenic area on Beargrass Creek.
Louisville Nature Center at Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve is located 3745 Illinois Ave, Louisville, KY.
2. McNeely Lake Park
McNeely Lake Park is a large metro park that offers access to a beautiful fishing lake open to boaters, as well tons of other recreation activities, including hiking and horseback trails, sport courts, a golf course, swimming areas, and a Korean War Memorial. Pack a picnic and bring along some friends for a relaxing afternoon in the park!
McNeely Lake Park is located at 10500 Cedar Creek Rd, Louisville, KY. Here’s a
park map and guide
for more info.
3. E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park
This 550-acre park was opened in 1947 and offers tons of activities and opportunities to have a wonderful day. While many people come here to use the gymnasium, sport courts, and playing fields, the one-mile fitness trail and 1.25-mile nature trail provide a beautiful spot to enjoy this little oasis in the middle of the city. It’s fun to stop and watch the little planes zipping overhead at the model airplane airfield, and you can even bring your furry friends along to play in the dog park.
E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park is located at 3000 Freys Hill Rd, Louisville, KY.
4. Beckley Creek Park
Beckley Creek Park is part of the Parklands of Floyds Fork and is a popular spot for kayakers and canoers to launch and explore the beautiful waterways and for fisherman to toss out a line in the creek and ponds. The beautiful 22-acre Egg Lawn is a commonly used spot for fun events and the Marshall Playground & Sprayground is an awesome spot to bring the kiddos on a sunny day. There are also several short trails for walking and cycling throughout the park.
Beckley Creek Park is located at 1411 Beckley Creek Pkwy, Louisville, KY.
5. Knob State Forest & Wildlife Management Area
Knob State Forest is open for day use, welcoming hikers and wildlife-watchers to come and enjoy the beautiful natural scenery. There are four short marked trails in the area, three of which can be accessed from parking areas along Crooked Creek Road. The Wildlife Management Area also allows hunting opportunities for wild turkey, quail, rabbit, squirrel, and deer (although there is a non-firearm restriction for deer hunting) with permits in season.
5. Knob State Forest & Wildlife Management Area
6. Taylorsville Lake State Park
This 1,200-acre park is about halfway between Louisville and Lexington and is a wonderful spot to bring along your fishing gear and try to catch dinner! Bass, bluegill, and crappie are common in Taylorsville Lake. If you aren’t a fisherman (or just aren’t patient enough to watch your line) there is still tons to do here! With more than 24 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails to explore, you’re sure to find yourself an adventure around the lake. There is also a campground with both tent sites and RV hookups if you want to extend a day trip into a fun little weekend getaway!
Taylorsville Lake State Park is located about 40 minutes east of Louisville at 1320 Park Rd, Mt Eden, KY.
7. General Butler State Resort Park
While the beautiful lodge at General Butler State Resort Park is definitely a centerpiece, there is plenty to do here, even if you don’t plan to stay overnight. Birdwatching is a popular activity here, as many beautiful migratory birds make a stop here along their journey. Hawks, owls, and woodpeckers call this area home all year long, but in the fall and winter, you can see Canada geese, Great Blue Herons, wild turkeys, and several types of ducks and waterfowl. Spring brings out lovely little songbirds, doves, robins, sparrows, and goldfinch, as well as vibrant Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.
The 4.5-mile Fossil Trail is a popular spot to go mountain biking, but it’s a moderately difficult trail that is best for experienced riders. There are several short nature trails to enjoy, as well as boating and fishing on Butler Lake, which is stocked with bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish.
General Butler State Resort Park is located about 50 minutes north of Louisville at 1608 Kentucky 227, Carrollton, KY.
8. Lincoln Homestead State Park
Lincoln Homestead State Park should top the list for every history buff! Step back in time and see the original home occupied by President Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, as well as a reconstructed blacksmithing workshop used by Lincoln’s father, Thomas. The 1780s-era structures are beautiful in their rugged simplicity and offer a unique look into life more than 200 years ago. While the grounds are open year-round, the cabins are closed from October through April to protect them during the winter months.
Lincoln Homestead State Park is located about an hour southeast of Louisville at 5079 Lincoln Park Rd, Springfield, KY.
9. Big Bone Lick State Park
This is one very cool state park! Bike Bone Lick was named for the incredible prehistoric fossils found in the area, which is thought to have once been a salt lick. Fossils of mammoths and large ancestral species to modern-era bison, horses, and sloths have been pulled from the earth here since the late 1700s. Big Bone Lick State Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1962 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2009.
You definitely do not want to miss the Visitor Center here; it houses incredible exhibits featuring some of the ancient fossils found in the area, archeological and historical information, and beautiful Native American art. There are several nature trails throughout the park, including a wheelchair accessible boardwalk called the Discovery Trail that winds through grassland, wetland, and savannah habitats. There is also a herd of American Bison living here!
Big Bone Lick State Park is located just over an hour northeast of Louisville at 3380 Beaver Rd, Union, KY.
10. Green River Lake State Park
This 1,331-acre park is located around the lovely Green River Lake and is a popular spot to go boating and camping during the warmer months. There is a large marina where visitors can rent houseboats, fishing boats, and jet skis and the lake is great for fisherman looking to catch large and small-mouth bass, muskie, bluegill, and crappie. There are 28 miles of multipurpose trails at Green River Lake State Park, ranging from easy mile-long trails to difficult, longer treks. Some trails are open to horses, but all are open to hikers looking to get out and stretch their legs in this beautiful region of the state.
Green River Lake State Park is located about 1.5 hours south of Louisville at 179 Park Office Rd, Campbellsville, KY.
Kentucky State Parks website
that offers an overhead view of the trails and facilities in Green River Lake State Park.
11. Mammoth Cave National Park
This unbelievable National Park is home to the longest cave system in the entire world! Over 400 miles of underground tunnels have been explored, but the 10-million-year-old cave is still revealing new passageways to this day. Mammoth Cave was (formally) discovered in 1797, but artifacts found inside the cave show that early humans and animals explored the area over 4,000 years ago! The cave is made up mostly of limestone and sandstone and millions of years of erosion have created some absolutely stunning geological formations, including some amazing otherworldly flowstones.
You can head down underground on guided tours through several different sections of Mammoth Cave. Most of the basic general tours cost between $5 - $20, depending on the length of the trip, but there are also more expensive, in-depth tours available for those who really want to get down and dirty to explore some of the more isolated and difficult to navigate areas. Here’s the full
list of tours
offered at Mammoth Cave.
Mammoth Cave National Park is located about an hour and a half south of Louisville. To get there, head south on I-65 to the Cave City Exit (Exit 53) and take a right onto KY-70. KY-70 becomes Mammoth Cave Parkway, which will lead you right to the Visitor Center!
We really are lucky to be surrounded by such amazing parks. While there are hundreds of beautiful spots around the state, these are just a handful of highlights that are close to Louisville and easy to get to, no matter what type of adventure you’re looking for!