Your Guide to Hiking Near Lexington and KY by Difficulty


Summer fun in Kentucky

Use our recreation guide to plan your summer of hiking, biking, swimming, and more in Kentucky.

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Whether you’re a first-time hiker or a seasoned adventurer ready to hit some quirky trails, we’ve got you covered with these top hiking trails, all within day-trip distance of Lexington.

Between state parks and nature preserves, National Park Service amenities, and private offerings, hundreds of miles of trails await you in Kentucky.

If we forgot any that you’d like us to add, be sure to fill out our Know Your Kentucky form at the end of this guide.

We’ve grouped the suggestions by level of difficulty, but please consider your personal mobility and other factors, such as the weather.

Easy Walks & Trail Deals Near Lexington

The Pinnacles of Berea

Though there is harder hikes heremost of the trails are rated as suitable for beginners, according to trail descriptions by the Berea College Forestry Awareness Center.

Don’t miss the incredible views of West Pinnacle, Buzzard’s Roost, East Pinnacle and Eagle’s Nest. East Pinnacle is recommended for beginners.

Darrell Harrison of Berea watches the sun rise from the East Pinnacle in Berea College Forest on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Ryan C. Hermens [email protected]

Dawn breaks near the East Pinnacle in Berea College Forest on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Ryan C. Hermens [email protected]

Jessamine Creek Gorge Reserve

This path offers the best views when the leaves are not out, but still offers good wildflowers from spring to fall. Don’t miss its views of the Kentucky River Palisades in winter. Overstreet Creek also offers a nice view.

If you’ve ever closed your eyes to imagine a babbling stream with gentle cascades and quiet forest pools, it’s pretty close.

Trail length: 2.1 miles

Cove Spring Park, Frankfurt

Half-park, half-nature reserve, Cove Spring is ideal for beginners who are looking to immerse themselves in hiking while enjoying spectacular, natural views.

A lot of the paths are paved, low in elevation and are on the shorter side, but still offer plenty of sites. There are approximately 240 acres of wetlands, streams, springs, waterfalls, wooded ravines, and other natural and historic features here.

Total trail length: 3 miles

Moderate Hikes near Lexington, KY

Two hikers explore a trail at Raven Run, a sprawling nature sanctuary in Lexington, Ky. Amy Wallot LFUCG/Amy Wallot

Kentucky River View Loop, Raven Run

Views of the Kentucky River Palisades – those impressive limestone cliffs and outcrops who travel about 100 miles — the effort is worth it.

Don’t miss Evans Mill. The site of an old grist mill at Raven Run dating back to the 1830s was established by Peter Evans. Raven Run Creek was then dammed and the water fed the mill, which was used by area farmers to grind their corn.

Trail length: 2 miles round trip

John Holder Trail

Considered a moderate hike, this trail in winchester is named after an enterprising Kentucky settler who called this place home. Colonel John Holder was a defender of Fort Boonesborough, which was besieged in 1778 during the Revolutionary War by the chief of the British-allied Shawnee tribe, Blackfish. After the war, Holder established a settlement at the mouth of Lower Howard’s Creek.

“Its landing on the Kentucky River has become a major departure point for flatboats bound for New Orleans with Kentucky produce,” according to the trail’s webpage.

This is the only part of Lower Howard’s Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve that is open to the public. Don’t miss beer cheese Restaurant Lobby, which is right next to the John Holder trailhead at 1225 Athens Boonesboro Road in Winchester.

Trail length: 2.8 km round trip

Harder hikes near Lexington, KY

Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail

The Sheltowee Trace suspension bridge crosses the Red River in the Daniel Boone National Forest near Slade, Ky. Monday, May 30, 2022 Ryan C. Hermens [email protected]

People jump from a rock into the Red River near the Sheltowee Trace Trail in the Daniel Boone National Forest near Slade, Ky., Monday, May 30, 2022. Ryan C. Hermens [email protected]

For the more experienced hiker who doesn’t let adventure get you down, we recommend the various branch loops from Sheltowee Tracewhich is currently traveling about 340 miles in Tennessee.

Old, forgotten farmhouses and oil and gas wells provide windows into Eastern Kentucky’s past. According to a Forest Service trail guide, Sheltowee Trace (pronounced shel-toe-ee) was dedicated in 1979 as part of the Daniel Boone National Forest Trail System. Named after Daniel Boone, it’s a nod to the nickname the Shawnee Blackfish Tribe Chief gave Boone, meaning “big turtle.”

There’s a lot to see on this trail that serves as the backbone of the Daniel Boone National Forest trail system, but don’t miss wood suspension bridge crossing the Red River.

People kayak in the Red River near the Sheltowee Trace Suspension Bridge in the Daniel Boone National Forest near Slade, Ky., Monday, May 30, 2022. Ryan C. Hermens [email protected]

Do you have a question about recreation around Lexington for our duty journalism team? We would love to hear from you. Complete the form below or email [email protected]

This story was originally published June 3, 2022 9:47 a.m.

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Aaron Mudd is a duty reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader based in Lexington, Kentucky. He previously worked for the Bowling Green Daily News covering K-12 and higher education. Aaron has roots in Fayette, Marion, and Warren counties in Kentucky.
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