Places to go vroom in the woods
AN ALL-TERRAIN VEHICLE, side-by-side ATV, Jeep or dirt bike can take you on trails that run through mountains, caves and along a lakeshore at off-road parks across Kentucky.
Larry Bruce Melton, an off-road enthusiast from Viper, rides trails at least one day each week. “Sharing these adventures with your family and friends will create memories that last a lifetime,” he says.
Create your own adventures at off-road sites across the state.
Leatherwood Off-Road Park
This sprawling new park opened in May with a commissary in the old Blue Diamond Mining Co. office in the Perry County community of Leatherwood. It is spread over leased land in Perry, Letcher, Leslie and Harlan counties.
“We are in the heart of Appalachia, the foothills of Black Mountain,” says Leatherwood owner Terry Roberts.
Leatherwood bills itself as the state’s largest off-road park, with 50,000 acres of reclaimed mine land and forests, and 250 miles of marked trails. “We’ve got easy trails and hard trails and everything in between,” Roberts says.
Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle Area and Campground
Turkey Bay is a 2,300-acre section of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area set aside for ATVs, side-by-sides, motorcycles and Jeeps. It is the only part of LBL’s 170,000 acres with off-road vehicle trails.
LBL, which is partially served by Pennyrile Electric, was established by the federal government in 1964 between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, the world’s largest impounded lakes. Turkey Bay, on the Kentucky Lake side, opened in 1972. It has 100 miles of trail for all skill levels.
Because it is on federal land administered by the U.S. Forest Service, special care is taken to avoid damage to natural resources. That means trails might be closed if rain has made the ground too saturated. Visitors are advised to check ahead before arriving.
Black Mountain Offroad Adventure Area
This park was opened nearly two decades ago as part of a Harlan County effort to increase tourism. It now covers about 5,000 leased acres overseen by a county-appointed board.
Most of the trails are old mining and logging roads through forests and land that was last strip-mined in 1995. “You wouldn’t even know that it was mined to look at it now,” says Ken Crider, the board treasurer who oversees the park.
The trailhead is in the town of Evarts, which has passed an ordinance allowing ATVs and other off-road vehicles to drive on city streets. That means visitors can legally ride their machines through towns to buy gas, eat in restaurants or shop.
Blue Holler Offroad Park
Bordering Mammoth Cave National Park, Blue Holler offers riders a chance to venture into a cave or take a break behind a waterfall under a massive rock overhang.
Served by Warren RECC, Blue Holler is owned by Kevin Nelson, who also runs a logging business.
The 1,800-acre park opened in 2016. Nelson says there are 60 to 80 miles of trails winding through land that is similar to the national park, including two natural rock bridges.
Hollerwood ATV Park
Served by Licking Valley RECC, Hollerwood is on more than 2,700 acres owned by Perry County and managed by Nick Rose.
It is near the Red River Gorge Geological Area and Natural Bridge State Resort Park. It features much of the same beautiful water-and-wind-created topography of those popular spots, and, like them, draws visitors from far away.
When the park opened in 2017, Rose says, most of the 65 trails were already there, a legacy of roads that once led to small oil wells.
Now in its 10th season, Rush Off-Road has more than 150 miles of trails winding through 7,000 acres in Boyd and Carter counties in northeastern Kentucky.
The park doesn’t have the extreme elevation changes found in parks in the southeastern part of the state, but there’s plenty of up-and-down riding.
“We are fortunate enough to have the terrain to be able to accommodate beginning riders all the way up to the expert trails,” Rush President E.B. Lowman says.
There are several special riding events each year, and concerts attracting up to 4,000 fans.
ANDY MEAD is a retired longtime reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader.