15 Best State Parks In Kentucky For Any Adventure

Choose a park for your adventure.

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Kentucky’s state parks are filled with natural beauty and magnificent views, but there’s nothing one-size-fits-all about them. Tent and RV campsites with plenty of elbow room and cabins tucked away in the woods to resort lodging, a stay at one of the state’s 45 parks—17 of them classified as resorts with lodges and restaurants—is all about possibilities. As are the adventure possibilities: hiking, biking and horseback riding, miniature golf, championship golf, and disc golf, caving, boating and fishing, swimming at the beach or pool—even an indoor pool complex.

Choose your adventure then choose your park or vice versa; either way, it’s a win when planning a trip. Pick your adventure and then choose your park, or vice versa. Kentucky State park vacations

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Known for its namesake Cumberland Falls—the Niagara of the South—expect commanding views from the water the crashes down this sixty-eight foot sandstone cliff. Eagle Falls Trail offers the most stunning views. Visit the park to witness one of the most rare phenomena. The ghostly, white arc. moonbow. Also known as white rainbows or a lunar rainbowIt is less common than a rainbow.

Greenbo Lake State Resort Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

SCUBA lovers—this park’s for you. Bring your gear and suit up for adventure (April through October) at the 10-acre SCUBA Refuge, the only one among Kentucky’s state parks. You’re not that adventurous? Rent a kayak or pedal boat or zip down the waterslide at the park’s community pool. Murder Mystery Dinner Theaters or Quilt Shows. Enjoy 33 miles of multi-use scenic trails within 3300 acres of forestland.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Getty Images

Getty Images

This park’s name is given to a natural sandstone arched that spans 78 feet, and is 65 feet high. Hike Trail #1 directly to the 30-foot-wide “sidewalk” known as Natural Bridge You can also ride the Sky Lift and enjoy views from above. This park has stunning views all year long, but the fall foliage season is when it’s truly spectacular. Do not miss the picturesque pool complex, which includes a zero depth pool, stone bathhouses, and a wading area with floor bubbles, fountains, and floor bubbles.

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Thomas Jefferson had Meriwether Clark and William Clark visit Big Bone Lick as part of their 1804 expedition. See bison herds roaming the fields year-round, a wooly mammoth and other Ice Age animals trapped in the mud edging a salt lick at the Megafauna diorama pit and a full Harlan’s Ground Sloth replica skeleton among the museum’s colorfully presented exhibits.

Pine Mountain State Resort Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Most U.S. state park systems date to the 1930s, developed with assistance from Great Depression-era federal programs including the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration—but Pine Mountain was ahead of the curve. Established nearly a century ago in 1924, Kentucky’s first state park is known for gorgeous sweeping vistas and is especially scenic in the spring when the mountain laurel and red buds bloom. Come to enjoy festivals, concerts, down-home cooking and the Instagrammable views.

Carter Caves State Resort Park

<p>Getty Images</p>

Hike to a softly illuminated underground waterfall on the scenic Cascade Cave tour at this resort park—one of only two state parks with guided and wild cave tours. Carter Caves is linked to the War of 1812 by a key ingredient that was used to make gunpowder. Wear the helmet and headlamp (provided) to explore the Bat Cave. Warning: Duck walk is required for 130 feet as the cavers have to waddle through this subterranean environment.

Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Dale Hollow’s lodge and Island View Restaurant are perched atop a bluff overlooking the lake and forests beyond. There is a nationally ranked course as well as an ADA-accessible nautical-themed 18-hole mini-golf course, where players cross streams in order to sink putts. Get wet and muddy at a wild cave named Cindy, hike to Eagle Point Trail overlook for a bird’s-eye view of Tennessee, and rent a boat and go island exploring. What is the best season to spot eagles and where can you find them? From December to February.

General Butler State Resort Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Enjoy one of Kentucky’s most famous (and delectable) culinary sensations—the oh-so-cheesy Hot Brown—at Two Rivers Restaurant, overlooking the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. Canoe, kayak, or pedal boat on Butler Lake or drop a line in for bass, crappie, and bluegill (and if you didn’t bring a fishing pole, the park will lend you one for free). Enjoy the sunset at the Butler Lake Trail’s overlook, and then visit the Greek Revival Butler-Turpin Museum.

Green River State Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

The entire campground at this nature lover’s paradise—all 167 RV campsites and 60 primitive/tent sites—sits along the shoreline of Green River Lake. Nearly 30 miles of trails are available for horseback riding. Enjoy the 8200-acre lake’s sandy beach. You can rent jet skis or fishing boats, pontoons, ski boats, and ski-boats at the marina. You can create your own wildlife adventure and hunt for eagles as well as turkeys.

John James Audubon State Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

It is one of the rare places in the World to find a double elephant folio. John James Audubon’s masterwork, Birds of America (1827-1838), which showcases the artist/ornithologist’s life-sized watercolors of North American birds, is at this state park. The three-gallery, fairytale chateau museum is located in a turreted stone building. A wetlands boardwalk, Nature Center, cottages and campgrounds, fishing lake, and hiking trails within a State Nature Preserve add to the park’s allure.

General Burnside Island State Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

It’s golf, island style, at this serene state park surrounded by Lake Cumberland. The Brian Ault-designed public course—a winner of multiple “Best in Kentucky” awards in the category of golf course—offers gorgeous waterfront views from every hole.

Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

<p>Phyllis Mille/ Lake Cumberland State Resort Park</p>

Phyllis Mille/ Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

Enjoy activities such as geocaching, tennis, mini-golf, disc golf and more on a 60,000 acre lake. The 63-room Lure Lodge is a great place to stay with a variety of activities including a 60,000-acre lake for houseboating, fishing and watersports, a Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery Visitor and Environmental Education Center, as well as the Rowena Landing Restaurant with its cozy fireplace, balconies with private views, an indoor swimming pool with hot tub, and the lobby. This year, the Wake Zone Bar, 3D Archery with life-size targets featuring deer, turkey, and bear, as well as astronomy, will be available.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park

<p>The Stephen Foster Story</p>

America’s first pop star rocks the stage during “The Stephen Foster Story,” the official outdoor musical of Kentucky and the state’s longest-running outdoor drama that includes such timeless tunes as “Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and Kentucky’s state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” Take a guided tour of the mansion museum, with 75 percent of its contents original to the home built 200 years ago. Come for an event—a ghost tour, a program about Victorian mourning and funerary customs, or a holiday performance of “An Old Kentucky Christmas Carol.”

Lake Barkley State Resort Park

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Nearby Land Between the Lakes National Recreation AreaThere are many recreational activities to enjoy in this park. Lake Barkley Marina rents boats. Windows on the Water Restaurant serves Kentucky food paired with Kentucky wine or spirits. Swim year-round in the heated indoor pool, part of the park’s fitness center, which also includes machines, a free-weight room, racquetball court, sauna, and wet-steam room. In the game room, you can play video games or ping-pong. Or try 18 holes of championship Golf.

Rough River Dam

<p>Kentucky State Parks</p>

Lounge on the beach, play disc golf on an 18-hole lakeside course, and practice navigational skills on the orienteering course—one of the few state parks with such a course—at Kentucky’s smallest resort park. The park is known for its live music. There are Bluegrass concerts every month, Friday night patio concert throughout the summer and spring and holiday crafts shows that highlight Kentucky-made products.

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