Summer fun in Kentucky
Use our recreation guide to plan your summer of hiking, biking, swimming, and more in Kentucky.
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
Don’t miss the incredible views of West Pinnacle, Buzzard’s Roost, East Pinnacle and Eagle’s Nest. East Pinnacle is recommended for beginners.
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
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
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.
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This story was originally published June 3, 2022 9:47 a.m.