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Blaze A Trail With A Bicycling Adventure

Have bike, will travel—to the darkest reaches of a Kentucky forest and into the wilds of the back country, along tight and twisty trails and beside creeks, lakes, and rivers.

There are groomed paths with gentle inclines that beckon beginners and families, and rugged trails that taunt experts with obstacles like boulders, log piles, fallen trees, and whoop-de-doos—those series of up-and-down bumps bikers love to jump. Often, the same trail accommodates all skill levels.

The Kentucky Department of Travel’s Web site lists hundreds of bicycling trails on its Adventure Tourism page—everything from the lushly treed Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont to the 150-acre Capital View Park in Frankfort.

The site also highlights Golden Pond’s Canal Loop Trail with its spectacular lake views and the Great River Road Bike Trail in western Kentucky. Learn about old favorites like Cumberland Shadow Trail in the southeastern part of the state, and the refurbished Otter Creek Park in Meade County.

Chris Lockard taught all four of his children, ages 6 to 10, to mountain bike at Capital View Park on trails he describes as “real mountain bike trails that require balance and some bike skills,” but that can be enjoyed by bicyclists of all levels at slower speeds.

“Within three or four trips, all my kids could ride the 5-mile bottom loop without any problems,” says Lockard, who is president of the Bluegrass Chapter of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association (KyMBA).

KyMBA, an advocacy organization dedicated to providing education, outreach, and environmental stewardship programs across the state, has three chapters: Bluegrass, Bowling Green, and Louisville. It is an affiliate of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and a recognized leader in sustainable trail development. One of KyMBA’s missions is to preserve, expand, and enhance natural surface trails throughout the state.

Vince Carman, a member of Nolin RECC and president of the Louisville chapter, moved back to Kentucky—after being stationed there in 1993 and 1994 in the Army—partly because of Otter Creek Trail. A victim of the 2009 ice storm, Otter Creek has recently been reopened, its trails refurbished and redesigned in loops for varying degrees of challenge.

Carman, who is also the mountain bike trail leader for Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area, says Otter Creek has about 12 miles of trails that can be ridden by everyone, from novice to expert, in a park setting that has preserved the back country experience while reducing “user conflict.”

Otter Creek amenities include campgrounds, hiking and horseback riding trails, bow and shooting ranges, fishing, and Ohio River access. Several trails for beginners are tricked out with challenging elements like downed trees, which beginners can skirt while more advanced riders tackle them head-on.

“As a person who plans vacations and even business trips around trails, I hope that Otter Creek will draw people from across the state and across the country,” says Carman, who has ridden trails in many states, including Utah, Texas, Colorado, Virginia, and West Virginia. He and his wife, Christine, took bikes along on their honeymoon.

With its 3.2-mile Hike Bike Pike and miles of (mostly) paved one-way road winding around gardens, lakes, and overlooks, Bernheim Arboretum was a regular venue for Mike Coen when his two children were younger. The Coens were able to cycle there as a family without having concerns about vehicle traffic.

“Bernheim is a great place to learn to ride, whether you are a child or an adult renewing your interest in biking,” says the Bardstown resident. He notes that recent changes at Bernheim include a dedicated walking and bicycling lane.

“There are some hills that may prove a bit difficult to the new or occasional rider, but all in all, it is a fun experience,” he says. “And after you put the bikes up, you can grab a sandwich at the new Visitor Center, picnic in the shade, or go for a walk on one of the many great walking paths—all activities we did with our children when they were younger.”


Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Bluegrass Chapter, KyMBA

Bowling Green Chapter, KyMBA

International Mountain Bicycling Association

Kentucky bicycling trails

Kentucky Department of Travel Adventure Tourism

Kentucky Mountain Bike Association

Louisville Chapter, KyMBA

Primer for those at the beginning of the trail:
ABC-of-Mountain Biking


For a list of biking tips—for families just beginning to expert cyclists who compete professionally, go to Bicycling adventure tips.

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