From hiking the multiple rails of the Appalachian Mountains to the numerous heritage and historic sites, Kentucky has a rich history and landscape. Historical trails like the Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness road give hiking and backpacking enthusiasts with multiple opportunities for adventure. Over 1.8 million people visit the 5 national parks, 32 national historic landmarks, 7 natural landmarks, and one national trail. The list of parks in Kentucky also includes 49 state parks, with multiple trails that lead to everything from kayaking vacations to rock climbing. Explore the multiple, clear lakes and streams and find multiple secluded swimming holes or beaches. Go stargazing by staying overnight at one of the many camping sites. Known as the Horse Capital of the World, Kentucky also has a variety of riding trails for equine enthusiasts.
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National Parks & Historic Sites
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
2995 Lincoln Farm Rd, Hodgenville, KY 42748
For over a century people from around the world have come to rural Central Kentucky to honor the humble beginnings of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. His early life on Kentucky’s frontier shaped his character and prepared him to lead the nation through Civil War. The country’s first memorial to Lincoln, built with donations from young and old, enshrines the symbolic birthplace cabin. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park preserves two separate farm sites in LaRue County, Kentucky where Abraham Lincoln was born and lived early in his childhood.
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
Oneida, KY, TN; 4564 Leatherwood Rd, Oneida, TN 37841
Encompassing 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The area boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historic features and has been developed to provide visitors with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities. The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area preserve the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky. In addition, the former mining community of Blue Heron is preserved and interpreted via signage.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
91 Bartlett Park Road, Middlesboro, KY 40965; Middlesboro, KY, TN, VA
At Cumberland Gap, the first great gateway to the west, follow the buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter, the pioneer… all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. Modern day explorers and travelers stand in awe at this great gateway and the many miles of trails and scenic features found in the park.
Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Dover, KY,TN; 120 Lock D Rd, Dover, TN 37058
Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant was becoming quite famous as he wrote these words following the surrender of Confederate Fort Donelson on Sunday, February 16, 1862. The Union victory at Fort Donelson elated the North, and stunned the South. Within days of the surrender, Clarksville and Nashville would fall into Union hands. Grant and his troops had created a pathway to victory for the Union.
Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south-central Kentucky. This is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles (643 km) explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a “grand, gloomy and peculiar place,” but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name – Mammoth. Mammoth Cave National Park is in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It’s home to the Mammoth Cave, a long cave system of chambers and subterranean passageways. Sites include the Frozen Niagara section, known for waterfall-like flowstone formations, and Gothic Avenue, its ceiling covered in 19th-century visitors’ signatures.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
AL, AR, GA, IL, KY, MO, NC, OK, TN; one location is River Discovery Center, 117 S Water St, Paducah, KY 42001
Remember and commemorate the survival of the Cherokee people, forcefully removed from their homelands in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee to live in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. They traveled by foot, horse, wagon, or steamboat in 1838-1839.
For additional attractions, visit Kentucky Tourism.
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